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Phalluses, Wolves, and the Wheaton
February 2, 2011 6:18 AM   Subscribe

August 2010: Popular gamer web comic makes ill-considered joke. People are offended. October 2010: Joke becomes shirt. More people are offended. January 2011: Shirts are pulled. Apology, at best, goes badly. Debacle results. Moral: always respect Wheaton's Law.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty (1328 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh man, my first post, and I hose a link in it. Second "offended" link *should* go here. :-(
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 6:21 AM on February 2, 2011


Don't be a dickwolf.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:22 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I apologize if I don't completely understand something here...

rape culture?
posted by grubi at 6:23 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Both "offended" links are the same. Your HTML failure offends me.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:25 AM on February 2, 2011


Let's point and laugh at dvorak_beats_qwerty. YOU CALL THAT LINKING? PAH!
posted by grubi at 6:27 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


There should be a "let me wikipedia that for you"
rape culture. come on, is it really so hard to know in this day and age if you don't know something, it's possible to google it and likely you'll find a well-sourced, informative wikipedia article about it?
posted by lesli212 at 6:28 AM on February 2, 2011 [54 favorites]


dvorak_beats_qwerty: Oh man, my first post, and I hose a link in it. Second "offended" link *should* go here. :-

That link has this text exactly, with the link as I've done it here: "rape culture means forcing men to become rapists."

If you [the author of that post] sincerely believe that there is a Rape Culture which strives to make all men into rapists, then I don't really know what to say to that. If a webcomic, any web comic, is the best example you have of that belief, then honestly I'm not even sure we can have a serious conversation.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:29 AM on February 2, 2011 [13 favorites]


People love to feel offended.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 6:29 AM on February 2, 2011 [26 favorites]


I think this is where we all get offended that someone else is offended.
posted by ghharr at 6:31 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Because there's nothing offensive about a shirt celebrating TEAM RAPIST?
posted by rmd1023 at 6:32 AM on February 2, 2011 [18 favorites]


The original comic was hilarious and absolutely cut to the core of a lot of weird things that happen in MMORPGs. It was a very fine effort on PA's part. In any case, I think your editorializing is a little over the top with things like "apology, at best, goes badly" given that the PA guys didn't actually apologize for the comic in any meaningful sense, don't think there was anything wrong with it, and are gonna go right on doing what they always do.

It wasn't the PA guys being dicks... or at least no more than usual.
posted by Justinian at 6:32 AM on February 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


Dick Wolf?
posted by uncleozzy at 6:32 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Wow, for your first post, you are just jumping into the deep end.
posted by smackfu at 6:33 AM on February 2, 2011 [37 favorites]


hmmm...

"If jokes about violence,rape,aids,pedophilia,bestiality,drugs,cancer,homosexuality, and religion bother you then I recommend reading a different webcomic."

I thought they were smarter than that.
posted by oddman at 6:34 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I can see this is going to be one of those threads that makes me hate MeFites.
posted by Sternmeyer at 6:34 AM on February 2, 2011 [78 favorites]


Rape isn't a part of the game, so for the slave to explicitly state he is being raped is a "humorous" exaggeration.

Rape isn't part of the game, but slavery is. Crazy kids.
posted by three blind mice at 6:34 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does anyone have a picture of the shirt?
posted by parmanparman at 6:35 AM on February 2, 2011


In addition, my inability to read the poster's existing aknowledgment of his HTML mistake offends myself too.

I'm going to paraphrase Richard Herring's stance on this (originally applied to his Collings & Herrin podcast), which is:
If the first thing you have ever complained about on PA is rape jokes, then you are tacitly supporting, even endorsing, all the offensive jokes that have come before that you didn't complain about. The jokes about murder. The jokes about bestiality. The jokes about pedophilia. None of that offends you enough to complain about? You sick bastard!

Yes I realise this is not a logically sound argument. It's a joke. Just like the PA strip.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:35 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Is this where I get to see a "Metafilter doesn't do this well" post?
posted by josher71 at 6:36 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


paisley henosis, if you would care to re-read second link in the main most, you might understand that the author linked states that the statement "rape culture means forcing men to become rapists" is a "classic 'misunderstanding'" that the PA guys allegedly perpetuate. That author in no way believes that to be the case.
posted by SirNovember at 6:36 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


sorry, second "offended" link.
posted by SirNovember at 6:37 AM on February 2, 2011


Just an observation; the vast majority of rape references in online gaming are male-to-male. Could it be that this is less about misogyny and more about homophobia?
posted by jet_manifesto at 6:37 AM on February 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


Everyone is clear that the original comic was pointing out the inherent amorality of even the "good" characters in most MMORPGs, right? It wasn't using slavery to make a joke about rape, it was using slavery to shine a light on how MMORPG characters are callous assholes.
posted by Justinian at 6:38 AM on February 2, 2011 [59 favorites]


... and could I be any more obtuse? She's saying that "rape culture means forcing men to become rapists" is BS.

There, that's clear. Done now.

posted by SirNovember at 6:38 AM on February 2, 2011


I see no problem with the original comic but I can see that the T-Shirt was in bad taste... badder than usual taste, that is.

I personally have no problem laughing at jokes about some of the aforementioned taboo subjects, really I don't. But I agree that a shirt celebrating "Team Rapist" is not that great.

I actually think that Gabe's "apology", if you can call it that, was fairly well done. They are essentially agreeing-to-disagree, but acknowledge that for PAX, they don't want fans feeling umcomfortable. They are respecting Wheaton's Law by pulling the shirt and I sort of hope that PA fans leave their Dickwolves shirts at home when it comes time to go to the con.
posted by utsutsu at 6:38 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, is teabagging in video games still ok? Was it ever?

Help Obi-Ragey Kenobi, you're my only hope.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:39 AM on February 2, 2011


Does anyone have a picture of the shirt?

This is an image of the logo on the shirt. It's essentially a sports team t-shirt.
posted by Justinian at 6:40 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


previous thread where there was some skepticism that there were t-shirts that had rape jokes on them.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:40 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I suppose "response" might have been a better word to use than "apology", but Gabe's post on Saturday read like an apology right up until the "if you're feeling conflicted about this, don't come to PAX" line.

There's an image of the shirt here.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 6:41 AM on February 2, 2011


You mean the post in which Gabe clearly writes, right at beginning,
First of all I would never remove the strip or even apologize for the joke. It’s funny and the fact that some people don’t get it, or are offended by it doesn’t change that. People complained about the strip and that’s fine with me, my response as always is “if you don’t like it don’t read it.”
that apology? I'm pretty sure if someone says "I would never apologize and if you don't like it, don't read it" it's not reading like an apology. It's just an explanation.
posted by Justinian at 6:43 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


rmd1023: the t-shirt isnt for the dickwolves, it celebrates their victims supporting each other to recovery.
posted by jb at 6:44 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Not apologizing for the strip and not apologizing for the shirt are two different things in my mind.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 6:45 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The weird thing is that that t-shirt doesn't mention rape at all. It only references a webcomic that mentions rape. So if you hadn't seen the comic you wouldn't get the "joke" (although might still be offended by "dick", obviously).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:45 AM on February 2, 2011


I was just about to say the same thing to paisley henosis. The text on that page reads:

Option Two: You act like an asshole. You try and derail the dialog your fans are attempting to have with you via the classic “misunderstanding” that rape culture means forcing men to become rapists.

The term "rape culture" describes a world in which rape is not taken seriously as the extreme violation that it is. That includes jokes and boys-will-be-boys she-brought-it-on-herself excuse-making, but also social and legal structures that frequently seem much more concerned with the possibility that an accuser may be lying than with the actual accusation itself. It's not some frivolous idea we should just slough off; it's a serious and well-thought-out critique of the world we all inhabit. You should take it seriously, and read up on it, before you just dismiss it.

As far as Penny Arcade goes, if your response to someone saying "Hey, rape's not funny" is "No, it totally is," then honestly I'm not even sure we can have a serious conversation.
posted by gerryblog at 6:47 AM on February 2, 2011 [113 favorites]


Fair enough, dvorak_bq. Any more on that paritcular subtopic is probably just semantic quibbling.
posted by Justinian at 6:47 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm offended by that comic. But only because it's not funny.
posted by jonmc at 6:48 AM on February 2, 2011 [14 favorites]


Ugh, I've been following this for a few days now and was wondering, or maybe for a better word fearing, when it was going to get posted here. But that said:

It wasn't the PA guys being dicks... or at least no more than usual.

I don't know how many words I could go through to explain how this is the exact opposite of what the problem was. To cut off 99% of the straw men that are going to be torched here, virtually no one is primarily upset about the original comic. They're upset that for about four months of this, the PA guys (or more specifically Mike Krahulik) has used any criticism against them to reflexively troll and abuse people about it.

You should read some of the comments on PA's own forum about this. There is a large percentage of people who most certainly observe that the level of dickishness Krahulik has displayed here is beyond "usual," it's flat out surprising.

I actually think that Gabe's "apology", if you can call it that, was fairly well done. They are essentially agreeing-to-disagree, but acknowledge that for PAX, they don't want fans feeling umcomfortable.

Mike/Gabe's "apology" deserves the air quotes because it was horrific bullshit. Telling offended people, and keep in mind when we are mentioning "offended people" we are largely referring to rape victims that if they feel uncomfortable they should go away and oh yeah, we'll be happy to blacklist you so you don't bother us anymore, is the opposite of an apology.

Obviously there's the "well who know what private email/obsucre blog post said" caveat here but by and large this isn't about "taking down a comic," it's about the unprecedented level of defensive, self-righteous nastiness that has been levied by Krahulik as a response to this particular incident. For four months he's been offered countless opportunities to simply not be an asshole and he just continuously feels like rejecting them for whatever sense of pride or principle I truly do not understand. That's absolutely his right but then he can't say ever again that his strip or his convention is all-inclusive.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:48 AM on February 2, 2011 [81 favorites]


rape culture?

As always, Wikipedia is a good first place to go looking if you don't understand a term.

The catch of this whole debacle is that the rape joke was centered on a male NPC, and the logical extension of 'look at how this is a real problem, this strip explicitly contributes to the discourse that it's okay' is couched in a lot of vagaries, like how much it really does reinforce acceptance of rape given its ironic intent. So much of it's based on 'well, I think' and 'personally, I feel' that the argument lying underneath isn't altogether that sustainable.

So this smells more like a witch hunt, the burning of a symbol that alludes to something that alludes to a problem but doesn't embody it on the whole. Penny Arcade are acting as the scapegoat for gamer culture, the 'hardcore' kind, which is inherently misogynistic given its demographic. And that's fine to a certain extent; debate is needed in this arena but it's looking like the viciousness of the reaction vastly outweighs the actual impact of the joke, and this will only serve to drive the debate, and its debaters, into their polemics and god knows that's rarely helpful at all.
posted by dubusadus at 6:48 AM on February 2, 2011 [25 favorites]


Because there's nothing offensive about a shirt celebrating TEAM RAPIST?

The shirt does no such thing. Dickwolves are a fictional fictional race to be thought of along the lines of orcs, ogres, elves, or vampires. The line in the comic is "raped to sleep by dickwolves." This does not imply that ALL dickwolves are rapists or evil, and is clear by replacing the word "dickwolves" with "orcs," "vampires," or even "bears."

The word "dickwolves" may have some baggage associated with it due to its appearance being limited to this one comic strip, but it's a word created and chosen for its hilarious sound. It can be appreciated outside of the comic, and it has a hilarious real-life namespace collision with Law and Order creator Dick Wolf. The shirt's not a celebration of rape, rape culture, or rapists. It's a celebration of the word "dickwolves" and a way to cash in on a funny word.

The real problem is that more than a few asshats decided to indelicately self-appoint themselves defenders of Penny Arcade and "dickwolves." They certainly did more harm than good, and put PA in an awkward position of being on the side of the asshats. Before said asshats chimed in, it was basically some puerile humor versus some people contorting their logic to find reason to be offended.
posted by explosion at 6:49 AM on February 2, 2011 [30 favorites]


Some people have way too much time on their hands. Instead of trying to make a huge issue out of a comic, why don't these people go donate their time to something that will actually affect rape victims in real life? Proselytizing online just angers people and starts flame wars.
posted by jellywerker at 6:49 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some people could just not comment instead of repeating the same inane garbage about how oversensitive and easily offended people are.

If you really think there's nothing really wrong with the TEAM RAPIST tee shirt, then why don't you prove how oversensitive people are by photographing yourself wearing one?
posted by hermitosis at 6:49 AM on February 2, 2011 [14 favorites]


I actually think that Gabe's "apology", if you can call it that, was fairly well done.

Bullshit. It was nothing but a self-righteous "well I'm sorry if you took offense but I don't think I did anything wrong" non-apology, intended not as an apology but to bat the responsibility away from the offender to the wronged.

You know, I like Penny Arcade. It's a funny strip and it's well-drawn, which sets it apart from about five nines of webcomics. But Mike Krahulik's behavior regarding this, and Jerry Holkins' apparent silence on the matter, leaves a really nasty taste in my mouth that discourages me from wanting to thread their comic or buy their stuff. Apparently that makes me "some people" and not a fan.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:51 AM on February 2, 2011 [13 favorites]


Rape jokes are so very boring. It's the equivalent of dropping references to cheese or jam into gags for people who believe themselves to be edgy. See also: Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights.
posted by mippy at 6:52 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


What explosion said.
posted by papercake at 6:52 AM on February 2, 2011


As far as Penny Arcade goes, if your response to someone saying "Hey, rape's not funny" is "No, it totally is," then honestly I'm not even sure we can have a serious conversation.

The joke wasn't about rape, it was about MMORPG protagonists doing quests like "Save 10 slaves from lifelong torment!.... but leave the rest, just stop when you get to 10. 10's fine. You can leave the rest of them.", which makes sense as a "go and kill/rescue/collect X number of Y then return for 50xp" game mechanic but seems bizarre and callous in terms of in-character, classical fantasy hero behaviour.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:52 AM on February 2, 2011 [32 favorites]


It's sad how stupid the penny arcade guys are being abou this. The original joke wasn't great, and the shirt really does look like a horrible and deliberate jab at their female fans.

But WTF female/considerate fans, how could you have enjoyed PA in the first place? It's just offense for offense sake and has never really been funny. It represents all the worst things about gaming culture even when it's being cute.

In other words, protest by ignoring them and supporting funny webcomics instead. Don't feed the trolls.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:52 AM on February 2, 2011


IAAFeminist: I actually thought the original comic was funny. Then they kept digging that hole, all the way through the Earth to Assholetown.

why don't these people go donate their time to something that will actually affect rape victims in real life?

Umm... they probably do?
posted by muddgirl at 6:53 AM on February 2, 2011 [22 favorites]


If you really think there's nothing really wrong with the TEAM RAPIST tee shirt

Er, what TEAM RAPIST t-shirt?
posted by Justinian at 6:54 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Could it be that this is less about misogyny and more about homophobia?

They are two sides of the world's thinnest coin.
posted by rtha at 6:55 AM on February 2, 2011 [80 favorites]


Some people could just not comment instead of repeating the same inane garbage about how oversensitive and easily offended people are.

Yes, but then that would be playing into the usual scenario where people who are offended about anything argue that by voicing a different opinion others are only causing further offense. It's an oft-repeated way to shut down a thread and it's a bullshit tactic whatever you think of the merits of a particular case of offense.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:55 AM on February 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


The term "rape culture" describes a world in which rape is not taken seriously as the extreme violation that it is.

Doesn't it follow that America has an even stronger "murder culture," in which people habitually say, "I'm gonna kill him/her" without seriously considering the meaning thereof? What about our "beatings culture," where we talk about metaphorically "kicking someone's ass?"

Don't get me wrong, it disgusts me to hear people use "rape" as a joke, or as a puerile term for "emphatically defeating someone in competition," but it does seem like "rape culture" gets singled out.
posted by explosion at 6:55 AM on February 2, 2011 [25 favorites]


If you really think there's nothing really wrong with the TEAM RAPIST tee shirt, then why don't you prove how oversensitive people are by photographing yourself wearing one?

If Penny Arcade put out a t-shirt that said TEAM RAPIST, I would be offended, but they put out one that says Team Dickwolves and it's a joke on a joke.

You would've known this if you had've done something like read the articles, and not just commenting on the commentary.
posted by dflemingecon at 6:56 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


The joke wasn't about rape, it was about MMORPG protagonists doing quests like "Save 10 slaves from lifelong torment!.... but leave the rest, just stop when you get to 10. 10's fine. You can leave the rest of them.", which makes sense as a "go and kill/rescue/collect X number of Y then return for 50xp" game mechanic but seems bizarre and callous in terms of in-character, classical fantasy hero behaviour.

I understand all that. But afterwards somebody said "Hey, rape's not funny," and they responded with another rape joke. Then they sold a T-shirt about it.

If their response had been "You're right, rape's not funny and of course we never meant to imply it is," we wouldn't be having this conversation.
posted by gerryblog at 6:56 AM on February 2, 2011 [25 favorites]


Some people have way too much time on their hands. Instead of trying to make a huge issue out of a comic, why don't these people go donate their time to something that will actually affect rape victims in real life? Proselytizing online just angers people and starts flame wars.

Two things:

Number one, fuck this shit right here. Just because there are greater ills in the world does not give you the right to be a lesser ill, nor does it make people who attack those lesser ills wrong.

Number two, if you had any ability to observe the world and connect the things you see happening, to figure out how the events around you relate to one another, you'd understand that jokes which make light of rape are both the product and a perpetuator of a culture in which rape is not taken seriously and in which rape victims are routinely minimized, harassed, ignored, and condemned. Rape culture is rape culture, and every bit of it must be attacked and torn down, not just the most egregious examples of it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:56 AM on February 2, 2011 [74 favorites]


Hmm. When I read that strip, I assumed people found it offensive because the protagonist was leaving a slave to die.

In the case of the comic, "Raped by Dickwolves" seems to refer to the most unspeakable horror that Gabe could think of at the time.

Yes, when you think about it, it was probably in poor taste. Make your displeasure known, don't buy the *%&ing shirts, and move on.

And, no. Metafilter doesn't do this well. Resisting the urge to call out the specific dickwolves who are trolling this thread....
posted by schmod at 6:57 AM on February 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


To cut off 99% of the straw men that are going to be torched here, virtually no one is primarily upset about the original comic. They're upset that for about four months of this, the PA guys (or more specifically Mike Krahulik) has used any criticism against them to reflexively troll and abuse people about it.

This. I thought the strip was over the line but not bad enough to stir up my outrage. But seeing how they've responded in the wake of all this? Jesus, guys, I know you make your money acting like assholes, but mocking and trolling rape victims is pretty goddamn horrible.

Been following the strip since before Gabe could draw, but I'm pulling them from my feed right after I hit the post button.

Good work, guys.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:57 AM on February 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


Justinian: "It wasn't the PA guys being dicks... or at least no more than usual."

I don't think you were doing this Justinian, but can we have a general cessation of the notion that some people get a pass for being mean because meanness is an essential element of comedy? It's not. Louis CK is sufficient proof that you can make really dark jokes (even a few rape jokes in there) and still not be a dick about it.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:58 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Doesn't it follow that America has an even stronger "murder culture," in which people habitually say, "I'm gonna kill him/her" without seriously considering the meaning thereof? What about our "beatings culture," where we talk about metaphorically "kicking someone's ass?"

Most conversations about murder trials don't begin with speculation about whether or not the victim might have faked their own death.
posted by gerryblog at 6:58 AM on February 2, 2011 [99 favorites]


I know how raunchy MMORPG can get, and that's perfectly fine -- they take place within groups of consensual players who have their own levels of tolerance.

Taking those jokes outside the circle and inflicting them on random passersby via T-shirts is purely antisocial, and feigning outrage over the outrage that results is just juvenile.
posted by hermitosis at 6:59 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


If Penny Arcade put out a t-shirt that said TEAM RAPIST, I would be offended, but they put out one that says Team Dickwolves and it's a joke on a joke.

You would've known this if you had've done something like read the articles, and not just commenting on the commentary.


Bullshit. The whole point of the Team Dickwolves shirt is to mock and bait people who find rape jokes offensive. They didn't put the strip out along with the shirt, they put the strip out, people complained, and Penny Arcade's response was "Oh, you don't like rape jokes, huh? Well now we're gonna sell a rape joke T-shirt, what now?"
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:00 AM on February 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


Just an observation; the vast majority of rape references in online gaming are male-to-male. Could it be that this is less about misogyny and more about homophobia?

This. I've got a super high tolerance for what others would find offensive -- particularly when it comes to gay issues. I'm of the mindset of not just 'if you're gay you can make jokes like that' but 'if you're otherwise gay friendly, you can make jokes like that' (see also: Seth McFarland) But despite the fact that I keep wanting to give PA (and gamer culture in general) a chance, I keep feeling my self-worth stepped on by the type of humor that snickers at me and mine like a 12 year old. And I'm too fucking old for that shit.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:00 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


I know how raunchy MMORPG can get, and that's perfectly fine -- they take place within groups of consensual players who have their own levels of tolerance.

Taking those jokes outside the circle and inflicting them on random passersby via T-shirts is purely antisocial, and feigning outrage over the outrage that results is just juvenile.


There are no dickwolves in MMORPGs. It was a side joke in a strip about how the mandates of game mechanics cause game characters to do absurd things.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:01 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Louis CK is sufficient proof that you can make really dark jokes (even a few rape jokes in there) and still not be a dick about it.

I don't disagree with your main point, l33tpolicywonk, but I don't think you can hold out Louis CK as somebody who isn't a dick in his comedy. He is absolutely criticized, including by some folks on Metafilter, as crossing way over the line. And, apropos this thread, specifically with regard to things like rape jokes.
posted by Justinian at 7:02 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


and Penny Arcade's response was "Oh, you don't like rape jokes, huh? Well now we're gonna sell a rape joke T-shirt, what now?"

The very fact that you think they made a "rape joke" in the first place shows you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the comic.
posted by Justinian at 7:03 AM on February 2, 2011 [13 favorites]


What I find a little bizarre about Shaker Milli A's rant about this is the following:

When I have a sense of humor, it is a little offbeat. I have liked, for example, Penny Arcade's comics about the numerous times they've killed each other. I have a dark sense of humor, and I'll admit it.

That's a weird line in the sand to draw, though isn't it? Milli A talks about victims living among us, but there are plenty of secondary victims (partners, children, parents and friends) of murder who have to deal with that pain every day, not to mention people whose murder was attempted and lived to tell about it. I can only assume that those people find murder humor to be twisted too. It's just a...weird hill to defend, I guess.

That, and I really don't understand why being a feminist, which Milli A refers to twice, has anything to do with finding no humour in this. I find a lot of murder and rape humour to be petty, childish derivatives looking for knee-jerk reactions, but I don't think my feminist views have anything to do with that, as much as some level of humanness kicks in and thinks that in order to cross that line, you'd better have a unique and ironic light to put on it.
posted by dflemingecon at 7:04 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Bullshit. It was nothing but a self-righteous "well I'm sorry if you took offense but I don't think I did anything wrong" non-apology, intended not as an apology but to bat the responsibility away from the offender to the wronged.
Well, I should hope that's all it was. People who manage to get themselves offended by comics on the Internet truly do not deserve any more.
posted by planet at 7:04 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


From the Wikipedia "rape culture" link:

...in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence.

That cartoon did none of those things, in my view. The reaction to it was absurd, and people need to stop being so endlessly hair-trigger about this shit. They need to learn to tell the difference between deliberately absurd hyperbole used for comic effect and actual condoning, normalising, excusing or encouraging. I say this with all the restraint I can muster: the people who seem incapable of making this crucial distinction look far more like dicks than those who know how to do so, and their endless whining and perpetual readiness to take offence makes them look both weak and lacking in perspective.
posted by Decani at 7:04 AM on February 2, 2011 [49 favorites]


If Penny Arcade put out a t-shirt that said TEAM RAPIST, I would be offended, but they put out one that says Team Dickwolves and it's a joke on a joke.

But it's a joke on a joke that offended people and was made because of that. It's totally not a TEAM RAPIST shirt and anyone who says otherwise is creating a stupid straw man.

A more apt metaphor is if a Sarah Palin reporter responded to the Tucson shootings controversy with a t-shirt with cross hairs and underneath it said "Surveyor Marks, You Betcha!" On the whole, the shirt wouldn't be offensive. But given the controversy and the history of the discussion, it's tone deaf at best, tasteless at worst.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:05 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


The very fact that you think they made a "rape joke" in the first place shows you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the comic.

"Every night we are raped to death by dickwolves" is a rape joke. The humor comes from the absurdity of the horror. We are meant to chuckle at that line, as the little joke that comes before the full punchline, which is an established comedic structure. The thrust of the comic is not a rape joke; the comic could have completely omitted any mention of rape and been just as funny.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:06 AM on February 2, 2011 [13 favorites]


I don't think it helps the situation at all for people to ascribe murky motives. Variations of "They are just looking for a reason to be offended" is pejorative speculation.

Yes, it was a joke and the follow up tee-shirt was in reality seems like a fuck you response. The internet is a big place, people are going to be offended by this. You(generic) may not feel their offense is valid, but honestly with such a sensitive and hurtful topic I fail to see how some might not feel it is offensive, and say so forcefully... and that is valid, even if you are not offended yourself.
posted by edgeways at 7:06 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


That cartoon did none of those things, in my view.

Fine, but the creators' response almost certainly has.

It's totally not a TEAM RAPIST shirt and anyone who says otherwise is creating a stupid straw man.

It's clear that lots and lots of people disagree with you. Penny Arcade presented Dickwolves as rapists - their primary characteristic in the comic is that they rape prisoners. Then in response to some negative attention they made a t-shirt that says "Team Dickwolves". Are we now supposed to assume that Dickwolves are NOT primarily characterized by the fact that they rape prisoners?
posted by muddgirl at 7:08 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well, I should hope that's all it was. People who manage to get themselves offended by comics on the Internet truly do not deserve any more.

Really? What is it about comics on the internet that should exempt them from consideration? If I draw a series of webcomics about how Jews should be tortured to death, should I respond to anyone who objects by saying "It's just a comic on the internet, go fuck yourself"?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:08 AM on February 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


The whole point of the Team Dickwolves shirt is to mock and bait people who find rape jokes offensive

But haven't we established that the original strip wasn't a rape joke?
posted by schmod at 7:08 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


A more apt metaphor is if a Sarah Palin reporter responded to the Tucson shootings controversy with a t-shirt with cross hairs and underneath it said "Surveyor Marks, You Betcha!" On the whole, the shirt wouldn't be offensive. But given the controversy and the history of the discussion, it's tone deaf at best, tasteless at worst.

Such a shirt would in and of itself be a minimization of the murders and an incitement to further murders, and that you can't see that makes me wonder whether or not you understand that real people are experiencing pain in the real world outside your head.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:09 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


But haven't we established that the original strip wasn't a rape joke?

The overall thrust of the strip was not a rape joke. The strip contained a rape joke. The "dickwolves" line is a rape joke contained within the strip. I do not understand why this is such a difficult concept for people who are genuinely trying to understand the situation to grasp.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:10 AM on February 2, 2011 [14 favorites]


That's a really fine line you're drawing there. To me it only makes sense to call something a "rape joke" if it is a joke about rape. Just like a "blonde joke" or a "Polish joke" or whatever.
posted by Justinian at 7:10 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've taken one thing away from this whole thread:

Option One: You say, pretty much verbatim and regardless of the situation’s specifics, “I am sorry. Upsetting you was not my intention. I clearly need to educate myself more about this issue. Thank you for telling me about this and raising my awareness. And again, I’m sorry.”

I think that I'll try to incorporate this into my life more. Life would be easier if you all did the same.
posted by leftcoastbob at 7:11 AM on February 2, 2011 [17 favorites]


That's a really fine line you're drawing there. To me it only makes sense to call something a "rape joke" if it is a joke about rape. Just like a "blonde joke" or a "Polish joke" or whatever.

"Every night we are raped to death by dickwolves" is a rape joke. The humor comes from the absurdity of the horror. We are meant to chuckle at that line, as the little joke that comes before the full punchline, which is an established comedic structure. The thrust of the comic is not a rape joke; the comic could have completely omitted any mention of rape and been just as funny.

posted by Pope Guilty at 7:11 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Really? What is it about comics on the internet that should exempt them from consideration? If I draw a series of webcomics about how Jews should be tortured to death, should I respond to anyone who objects by saying "It's just a comic on the internet, go fuck yourself"?
Yeah, honestly, why not tell them to fuck themselves? What conceivable benefit is there in humoring someone who would bother to react that way to your stupid, trivial comic?
posted by planet at 7:13 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


My assessment of the un-apology was not put in context of the behaviour in the forum or elsewhere surrounding the issue, and that definitely changes my opinion of the whole thing.

I've read penny arcade for years, and think that in general they have done good for "gamers" as a whole. I consider myself a gamer. But I do tire of some aspects of it, rape jokes being one of the major ones... alongside racism, sexism, and homophobia.

I honestly hope that as a group, we can leave these things behind, but the problem is that gamers are far, far from being one homogenous group. The best I can do is to not do these things myself, and to not tolerate it from friends that I game with.
posted by utsutsu at 7:13 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also want to add, what makes me the most sad and angry about this is that I am a HUGE supporter of Child's Play. I've volunteered for it and sold stuff to raise money for it. It's one of maybe three or so charities I've actually made efforts to promote and contribute to.

And I'm horrified that its own creator does not recognize the irony in his own self-destructive behavior about it. This is a charity that was created because the creator was sick of the stigma that gamers were mean, abusive, violent, etc. Yes, obviously the prime benefit of Child's Play is the money it raises for sick children but it was also designed as a PR movement--an opportunity to prove that gamer culture isn't a bunch of ignorant assholes. And given the laziness of the modern media and the simplicity of a Google search I have no doubt that from this point on every article, every statement, every puff piece about Penny Arcade and their awesome charity is now going to have the additional graf about "oh by the way, they also mocked rape victims." Yeah, great PR, guys.

And honestly, the same thing applies to PAX. There are feminist and sympathetic gamers who are actually going to wear anti-Dickwolves shirts at the con. In other words, that all-inclusive, let's-all-have-fun gamer convention you created? Congratulations, it has rival gangs now.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:13 AM on February 2, 2011 [38 favorites]


Yeah, honestly, why not tell them to fuck themselves? What conceivable benefit is there in humoring someone who would bother to react that way to your stupid, trivial comic?

Again, what is it about the fact that an idea is expressed in a comic that makes it trivial?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:14 AM on February 2, 2011


Point 1: I'm a rape survivor (male on male)
Point 2: I found the comic to be pretty funny

Anyone else on the internets want to speak for me?
posted by littleredspiders at 7:15 AM on February 2, 2011 [40 favorites]


jellywerker: Some people have way too much time on their hands. Instead of trying to make a huge issue out of a comic, why don't these people go donate their time to something that will actually affect rape victims in real life? Proselytizing online just angers people and starts flame wars.

Or for some people, rape culture is a very real and traumatizing thing, either due to personal experience or out of sympathy. If someone changes their mind about rape jokes and how to respond to the idea of rape because of the "proselytizing," then something positive was achieved.

But I'm with explosion on this - Gabe/Mike kept playing it off as big joke, when there were a lot of people upset for some reason. This isn't a corporation upset that you've twisted their cute characters into some S&M duo, it's people upset about the way a single comment in the comic has expanded into a running joke about rape.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:15 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hi,

Is this the thread where I have to prove my support for "more important" issues before taking thirty seconds to comment on a web forum? Well, er...I read an article about Egypt and wrote an article about House Resolution 3, which really actually will hurt rape victims, namely those who become pregnant. I somehow seem to have managed to do this despite the arduous process of posting the below comment, which I surely expected to take up my entire day!

Anyhow, reactions on the feminist blogosphere have been somewhat mixed on the original comic (I personally agree with Geek Feminism--it was pretty effective to me and didn't really bother me.) What people are objecting to is the flip tone of the followup comments and the t-shirt, both of which were in pretty poor taste.

One of the things you have to take this with is the fact that Penny Arcade also runs PAX, one of the "only overtly non-creepy" gaming conventions. PAX has done things in the past like banning booth babes and taking on sexual harassment, so seeing them arguably express that they don't care if rape victims are bothered by people wearing shirts featuring an animal expressly designed for rape (which does kind of seem like why it was created) is a little jarring, and has caused some hesitation about the project of PAX.

This isn't The Biggest Thing Ever, and people are hardly rioting in the streets because of it--it's just one of many things that these blogs write about. I'm sure it took Penny Arcade way longer to draw their "apology" comic and make the shirt than it takes some people to write about it, so why not debate the actual issue instead of deriding people for talking about it?
posted by Tubalcain at 7:16 AM on February 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


"Every night we are raped to deathsleep by dickwolves" is a rape joke. The humor comes from the absurdity of the horror. We are meant to chuckle at that line, as the little joke that comes before the full punchline, which is an established comedic structure.

And? The point is that it's over-the-top, gratuitous, and in no way reflective of reality. It's an exaggerated horrible fate that the PC is completely unsympathetic to. If there was a line about throwing "entrails parties" with "intestines for streamers and livers as party-hats," it would be as in-line with a murder culture as the PA strip is in line with rape culture, which is to say, "not really at all."

Is rape just completely off-limits to mentioning in any comedic manner? Beatings are fine, murder's fine, AIDS is fine, even Hitler and the Holocaust are fine, but rape's just not allowed?

I can understand the "gosh, that strip's puerile" reaction, but I just certainly don't understand the "those guys are making light of rape, they're monsters!" reaction.
posted by explosion at 7:16 AM on February 2, 2011 [42 favorites]


Point 1: I'm a rape survivor (male on male)
Point 2: I found the comic to be pretty funny

Anyone else on the internets want to speak for me?


Not at all... what do you think about the shirt and the response and the rape victims who did not think it was funny?
posted by edgeways at 7:17 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let me clear something up because I think this is causing confusion: If you read the links quickly, as I did at first, you might come to the conclusion that the T-shirt in question was the Dickwolves Survivors Guild shirt in the third FPP link, which is actually a hypothetical shirt made up as a response to the comic. The actual shirt at issue is this one, and it basically declares membership in the group of hypothetical raping entities.

Even if you don't think the comic is itself offensive (and it's at least in poor taste) and contributing to rape culture, that t-shirt is reprehensible, and in part because it's so obscure and self-referential. "Hey, other gamer dudes, I'm down with the offensive rape jokes too! WHEE!" Is it really so hard to just not make jokes about rape and then defend other rape-joking-assholes? Really?
posted by norm at 7:18 AM on February 2, 2011 [20 favorites]


For what its worth, when I was playing WoW, or any other online game of that nature where people can talk to each other, I couldn't go five minutes without hearing an actual rape joke, gay joke, or the word "nigger."
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:20 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Penny Arcade is funny, and the Penny Arcade guys are good guys. The original strip was funny, but the t-shirt was classless.

Mike is not good with 'womens issues', as he has demonstrated before.
posted by empath at 7:20 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Penny Arcade has entertained me for years, but every now and then their humor makes me grimace. Sometimes I find my own worldview in their crosshairs and it's uncomfortable. I can't begrudge anyone else their reactions when they encounter humor that strikes close to home.

The problem with arguments like the one in this thread is that it's almost impossible to de-escalate. One you throw out the proposition that liking the comic is equivalent to encouraging rape, it's not the sort of thing you can back away from. Nor is it the sort of accusation that many folks are comfortable to let stand.

In the end, this comes back to the "rape joke" topic, and it's just something that never goes well here. Hopefully, future posters will factor that point into their decision making when considering an FPP on the topic.
posted by DWRoelands at 7:20 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


XQUZYPHYR's assessment makes sense to me. I thought the original comic was funny, but yeah... that t-shirt, (which I hadn't seen before) as a reaction to a controversy and a whole bunch of people being offended by the comic, pretty obviously does say "Team Rapist".
posted by XMLicious at 7:21 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


But haven't we established that the original strip wasn't a rape joke?

I think mostly all that's been established on that front is that different people disagree on whether "a rape joke" is a sufficiently clear way to connote "a joke that contains explicit rape-related content".

The joke in question had rape as an explicit element. That's a given.

I don't have trouble with the argument that it wasn't intended specifically to be a joke targeting rape victims, etc; PA guys often play with crudity but they do not seem to be that kind of asshole, and the line in the original comic is totally in line with their style of writing even if you swap out raping dickwolves for e.g. brainlusting mindflayers or whatever. They went with a line they thought was funny, it's what they do, not a whole lot to say there.

The response was from people who had a problem with that. People are gonna disagree on this point: some people are pretty sensitive to Ha Ha Rape stuff in any context; some people aren't sensitive about it at all. By the same token, some people are kind of sensitive about That's Not Funny stuff, while other people aren't.

Most of the heat here seems to be coming from the conflict between folks bothered by the Ha Ha Rape content of the strip and the people reacting to the That's Not Funny response. And while I hear where both side are coming from on that, it is kind of hard to not notice the imbalance in weight between "rape is an awful thing that I don't like jokes about" and "but it's funny, geddit" in terms of the personal and cultural stakes involved.

I love PA to death and thought the original comic was funny. But as someone who is neither necessarily easily bothered by rape references nor particularly bothered by people speaking up when they're bothered by this or that attempt at humor, I sure as shit think they would have been better off picking up on the immediate negative feedback and letting the Dickwolves stuff drop after the initial comic as a "welp, that didn't go over great" thing. Followup comic was questionable, Dickwolves jersey was just plain stupid. It's not surprising they're seeing backlash now; their handling was terrible regardless of their initial intent.
posted by cortex at 7:21 AM on February 2, 2011 [52 favorites]


The joke wasn't about rape, it was about MMORPG protagonists doing quests like "Save 10 slaves from lifelong torment!.... but leave the rest, just stop when you get to 10. 10's fine. You can leave the rest of them.", which makes sense as a "go and kill/rescue/collect X number of Y then return for 50xp" game mechanic but seems bizarre and callous in terms of in-character, classical fantasy hero behaviour.

The joke isn't about rape per se, but rape is a part of the joke. The line about being raped to sleep contributes to the 'humor' of the strip by highlighting the absurdity of leaving the remaining slaves to their fate. It could just as easily have been about other terrible things, but rape was selected from the universe of possible 'bad things that could happen to a slave.' And in fact many slaves were and are victims of sexual violence, so that brings a racial history component into the 'joke' as well.

By its nature the joke requires some sort of exaggerated description of the terrible fate awaiting the unfreed slaves, but rape is a poor choice in this context. First, it's not actually an element of World of Warcraft or (most) other MMORPGs, so it feels strained and like a symptom of the misogyny common in gamer culture. Second, gamer culture has huge problems with real-world misogyny but doesn't have a problem with real-world violence, so a rape joke is more threatening to readers, particularly women. Third, statistically more people (particularly women) have been the victim of sexual violence than non-sexual violence, particularly among the predominantly white readership of Penny Arcade, so jokey references to non-sexual violence aren't likely to be as directly offensive as jokey references to sexual violence.
posted by jedicus at 7:21 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


If there was a line about throwing "entrails parties" with "intestines for streamers and livers as party-hats," it would be as in-line with a murder culture as the PA strip is in line with rape culture, which is to say, "not really at all."

"Murder culture"? Seriously? Are murder accusations routinely met with accusations that the dead had it coming, and shouldn't have been wearing that non-kevlar outfit? Are murder victims routinely slandered and their families harassed and silenced? Do we live in a culture in which the severity of murder is minimized and ignored? What a completely bullshit comparison.

Is rape just completely off-limits to mentioning in any comedic manner? Beatings are fine, murder's fine, AIDS is fine, even Hitler and the Holocaust are fine, but rape's just not allowed?

It's the flipness, honestly. It's the minimization. These guys are getting raped by monsters, and it's a joke, because rape is itself funny. We rightly stigmatize jokes which have as their premise that murdering Jews is funny. We rightly stigmatize jokes which have as their premise that gay men dying of AIDS is funny.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:22 AM on February 2, 2011 [17 favorites]


Again, what is it about the fact that an idea is expressed in a comic that makes it trivial?
Comics (especially web comics) are a poorly-respected entertainment medium. They have little if any cultural weight with people who matter.
posted by planet at 7:22 AM on February 2, 2011


The whole POINT of the initial joke is that rape is a terrible thing. The strip has no humor if rape is being made light of.
posted by empath at 7:22 AM on February 2, 2011 [17 favorites]


Penny Arcade are acting as the scapegoat for gamer culture, the 'hardcore' kind, which is inherently misogynistic given its demographic.

Now wait just a second - claiming that gamer culture is inherently misogynistic due to demographics? Doesn't it have more to do with what kinds of behaviors the group allows, and encourages?
posted by dubold at 7:23 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The original comic portrays being raped by dickwolves as an insufferable and monstrous torture, and the joke of the comic is in calling out player characters for not caring about the people being hurt beyond the quest requirements. How, exactly, is this promoting the idea that rape is anything but terrible?

Is the idea that regardless of the framing, regardless of the context, regardless of anything, the word "rape" can never make an appearance in something comedic without it automatically condoning rape? Because that's absurd.
posted by kafziel at 7:23 AM on February 2, 2011 [41 favorites]


Comics (especially web comics) are a poorly-respected entertainment medium. They have little if any cultural weight with people who matter.

Oh, get out of here with your elitist twaddle.


The whole POINT of the initial joke is that rape is a terrible thing. The strip has no humor if rape is being made light of.

The joke isn't that it's terrible, the joke is rape. That the guys are getting raped is itself the joke.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:23 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Life would be easier if you all did the same.

Yes, but then we would all be constantly capitulating to people we disagree with on the basis that they were offended first. I could write pages and pages about this, but suffice it to say I don't accept that argument from religious fundamentalists and I'm not going to accept it from anyone else. Nobody gets to win an argument by acting angriest.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:24 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I could just as easily post this in the thread about Bitch removing books from their reading list, but: I've never been abused in any way, or sexually assaulted, and I don't really grok the whole concept of triggers, and I could easily sit down and ponder and argue why the world should adjust to ensure the comfort of people who might be upset by things and fight for my right to joke about whatever I want...

But then, you know, I've never been abused in any way, or sexually assaulted. So maybe I could just have some compassion and sensitivity toward people who have, and trust that they know what they're feeling, and do my best not to be hurtful toward them and to recognize areas where I can improve in this respect. It's not hard to do, and it's nice, so that's the route I'm trying to take.
posted by padraigin at 7:25 AM on February 2, 2011 [24 favorites]


A more apt metaphor is if a Sarah Palin reporter responded to the Tucson shootings controversy with a t-shirt with cross hairs and underneath it said "Surveyor Marks, You Betcha!" On the whole, the shirt wouldn't be offensive. But given the controversy and the history of the discussion, it's tone deaf at best, tasteless at worst.

That's not an apt metaphor at all, as it points to specific victims of a crime that is pervasively known amongst western culture. It draws a direct line to one event and response, which then makes it a commentary on that one event. The joke has absolute and specific context, whereas this one is vague and can only be personalized by the individual.

Team Dickwolves actually speaks a little to a pervasive part of gamer culture, which defines itself by homophobia and humiliation, and the rest who seem unfazed or uninterested in it and who sit idly by. I play enough FPS online to have shot people who were "simulating" rape on a victim they just killed to humiliate them. So it's not THAT far out of the realm of possibility that a game which features slaves would have some of those people, simulating rape on their slaves.

This joke exists, knowing that these other behaviours exist, and the absurdity pointed out is directly related to the absurdity at the lack of attention most people pay to it on a day to day basis. If you don't believe me, grab a copy of CS Source and spectate for a little while, and watch what 14 year olds are up to online.
posted by dflemingecon at 7:26 AM on February 2, 2011


The argument is not "I'm offended and therefore you should change", it's "this is offensive because x and I believe that you should agree with me that x is something you don't want to contribute to. Nobody save for maybe Bill Donohue argues "I'm offended, therefore you owe me something". People who make arguments involving their offense tend to say "This is offensive for this reason", where the reason is something we can discuss.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:26 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, get out of here with your elitist twaddle.
If you really do take seriously things you read in web comics, that might be the biggest joke to come out of this.
posted by planet at 7:26 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I can understand the "gosh, that strip's puerile" reaction, but I just certainly don't understand the "those guys are making light of rape, they're monsters!" reaction.

Again, the majority of the problem here is how they responded to the negative criticism of the strip, not the strip itself. Telling a maybe-borderline joke is one thing. When rape victims say, "Hey, maybe that wasn't the best idea for a joke" and your response is to mock them and troll them and sell t-shirts so that you can line your pockets with money spent to mock and troll rape victims, then that is an entirely different thing. That latter is in fact a pretty good signal that you are overdue for some personal re-evaluation.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:27 AM on February 2, 2011 [24 favorites]


don't really grok the whole concept of triggers

People who have experienced trauma often suffer from a disorder called PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. When exposed to experiences or stimuli which causes them to recall that trauma, they experience the trauma again. The most famous example is Vietnam veterans experiencing something that reminds them of the war and reliving the horrors of combat. Sexual molestation very commonly causes PTSD. Something which is "triggering" is something which has a high chance of causing PTSD sufferers to have their PTSD triggered and relive the trauma. "Trigger warnings" are used to say "Hey, if you're a PTSD sufferer, this might trigger you, you might want to skip it" to enable sufferers to avoid being triggered.

The More You Know!
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:29 AM on February 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


The comic, the shirt, the resulting discussion are a great PR tool for gamers.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:30 AM on February 2, 2011


Don't forget to put on your Insane Clown Posse make-up when you sport your TEAM RAPIST shirt.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:30 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


The joke isn't that it's terrible, the joke is rape. That the guys are getting raped is itself the joke.

This is self evidently not true. The joke is that the supposed heros of the game are completely self-centered and refused to do anything to help others beyond the specific quest requirements, no matter how terrible they are suffering and need help.

That is the joke. Rape is ancillary to it. It's a graphic description of on-going suffering.
posted by empath at 7:30 AM on February 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


The comic, the shirt, the resulting discussion are a great PR tool for gamers.
Honest question: Why do gamers need PR?
posted by planet at 7:31 AM on February 2, 2011


The joke isn't that it's terrible, the joke is rape. That the guys are getting raped is itself the joke.

That's an inaccurate and unfair reading of the strip. The fair reading of the strip, whether you think it's funny or not, is that horrible, terrible things are happening to the slaves, and the PC will only (can only, by game mechanics) save 5 of them, because that is all that the quest requires. The 6th slave is left to his cruel fate by an indifferent PC.

Within the context of the strip alone, the humor is not to be found from the rape, but the callous indifference of the PC. That you're representing otherwise makes me question whether you're willing to have an honest conversation about this at all.
posted by explosion at 7:31 AM on February 2, 2011 [25 favorites]


First, it's not actually an element of World of Warcraft or (most) other MMORPGs, so it feels strained and like a symptom of the misogyny common in gamer culture.

Yes it is, apart from people talking about it, it is physically in the game.

In PVP in WoW, people often use emote animations to "rape" and/or teabag your dead body. Many people even make them into button-clickable macros so they don't have to type them out. Totally player-driven content.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:32 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I could easily sit down and ponder and argue why the world should adjust to ensure the comfort of people who might be upset by things and fight for my right to joke about whatever I want...

There are more important things in this world than the right to make light of the pain of others.


If you really do take seriously things you read in web comics, that might be the biggest joke to come out of this.

The medium through which ideas are expressed does not make those ideas invalid or trivial, kthx.


I look to video game culture as a source of, like, enlightenment and respect.

That this is comprehensible as a joke about how profoundly toxic and disgusting gamer culture is should be a perfect example of why it needs to be changed.



This is self evidently not true. The joke is that the supposed heros of the game are completely self-centered and refused to do anything to help others beyond the specific quest requirements, no matter how terrible they are suffering and need help.

That is the joke. Rape is ancillary to it. It's a graphic description of on-going suffering.


There are two jokes in the strip. Don't be willfully dense.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:32 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nobody gets to win an argument by acting angriest.

Not being an asshole doesn't make you a loser.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:33 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Within the context of the strip alone, the humor is not to be found from the rape, but the callous indifference of the PC.

Then why do people want to wear Dickwolf T-shirts?
posted by heatvision at 7:33 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


There should be a "let me wikipedia that for you"
rape culture. come on, is it really so hard to know in this day and age if you don't know something, it's possible to google it and likely you'll find a well-sourced, informative wikipedia article about it?


As always, Wikipedia is a good first place to go looking if you don't understand a term.

Well, good to see douchenozzle culture still abounds.
posted by grubi at 7:33 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


When rape victims say, "Hey, maybe that wasn't the best idea for a joke" and your response is to mock them and troll them and sell t-shirts so that you can line your pockets with money spent to mock and troll rape victims, then that is an entirely different thing.

The disconnect is that original strip didn't focus on rape, but rather the uncaring attitude of those on the quest.

Some people focused on the fact that rape was used in comedic setting and felt the strip was another brick in the house that is rape culture. Essentially, they called the original authors rapists or supporters of rape, which of course said authors rebelled against.

The problem here is the lack of understanding on both sides. Using rape in fictional setting is tricky subject. Yet because it was used doesn't make the authors bad people.

There is no real solution to this until people recognize their own biases and those of others.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:35 AM on February 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


First, it's not actually an element of World of Warcraft or (most) other MMORPGs, so it feels strained and like a symptom of the misogyny common in gamer culture.

This is completely irrelevant, as the point of the joke is that even if the character were suffering a far worse fate than any portrayed in a MMORPG, the 'heros' would still not help them.

That would be an interesting experiment for a MMORPG designer, though. Create a quest with absolutely no reward except helping a suffering NPC and see how many people actually do it.
posted by empath at 7:35 AM on February 2, 2011


The medium through which ideas are expressed does not make those ideas invalid or trivial, kthx.
I look forward to your followup screeds about a joke you read in a bubblegum wrapper.
posted by planet at 7:36 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


The joke isn't that it's terrible, the joke is rape. That the guys are getting raped is itself the joke.

That is, by far, the most uncharitable reading of the strip possible. Are you claiming that being beaten is also the joke since in the same panel the slave says that every morning they are roused by savage blows? You're really stretching.

Also, quoting a comment you made earlier in the thread back in its entirety is unlikely to change someone's mind given that they've already seen the comment earlier in the thread!
posted by Justinian at 7:36 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]



Then why do people want to wear Dickwolf T-shirts?


Because "Dickwolf" is a funny word.
posted by ghharr at 7:36 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Then why do people want to wear Dickwolf T-shirts?

My guess is that they like trolling people who are offended by ridiculous shit.

Not personally my thing (because the people being trolled have already suffered enough from whatever trauma they went through), but I can see where the impulse comes from, and it's not from being pro-rape.
posted by empath at 7:37 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Oh, and by the way, I did read the itty-bitty Wikipedia article on the term "rape culture". I wasn't asking GEE WHAT'S THIS HERE; I was wondering out loud about such a term -- as in, seriously? There's a rape culture now?.

But, thankyoudoucheymuch for the link.
posted by grubi at 7:37 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some people focused on the fact that rape was used in comedic setting and felt the strip was another brick in the house that is rape culture. Essentially, they called the original authors rapists or supporters of rape, which of course said authors rebelled against.

That you do a thing which contributes to rape culture does not make you a rapist any more than being born white makes you a contributor to white privilege.

The problem here is the lack of understanding on both sides. Using rape in fictional setting is tricky subject. Yet because it was used doesn't make the authors bad people.

Making a flip, the-joke-is-that-he's-being-raped throwaway side joke is not simply "using rape in fictional setting".


I look forward to your followup screeds about a joke you read in a bubblegum wrapper.

You're just a deeply unpleasant person, aren't you?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:37 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Then why do people want to wear Dickwolf T-shirts?

I think it's a "fuck you" to those equating them with rapists and bat man like signal to show which side of this very important issue they're on.

Both sides are coming at this from very different angles, convinced they're right and refusing to budge. It's a common thin in arguments.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:37 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Not being an asshole doesn't make you a loser.
It really kind of does if it leads you to being vocally offended about "dickwolves". Hitting that point should be a wake up call, "hey, maybe I'm not enough of an asshole."
posted by planet at 7:38 AM on February 2, 2011


(I could have phrased that better -- the t-shirt is dickish, mike was an asshole for selling it, the people wearing it on assholes, but I honestly don't think it's because they're pro-rape in any way.)
posted by empath at 7:38 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


(I could have phrased that better -- the t-shirt is dickish, mike was an asshole for selling it, the people wearing it on assholes, but I honestly don't think it's because they're pro-rape in any way.)

Rape culture isn't really about being "pro-rape". It's about a culture of minimization of rape, in which rape is not taken seriously and in which the victims of rape are humiliated, mocked, harassed, and themselves accused. You don't have to be "pro-rape" to be a contributor to rape culture. I know plenty of people, for example, who think rape is terrible but respond to news of somebody going to prison with "HURR LOL DON'T DROP THE SOAP LOL" jokes.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:40 AM on February 2, 2011 [35 favorites]


but I honestly don't think it's because they're pro-rape in any way.

Yeah, nobody is saying they are "pro-rape." People rightfully have a very big problem with them making fun of rape victims for telling them that their little rape joke isn't funny.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:41 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The whole POINT of the initial joke is that rape is a terrible thing. The strip has no humor if rape is being made light of.

On this point I am fine with agreeing to disagree. I think the strip is in poor taste but whatever. I have enjoyed plenty of poor taste humor in my life and while I have certain areas that I consider out-of-bounds for hilarity I think that's defensible on some level. Where I think this discussion flies off the rails is in the selling-- and defense of-- the Team Rapist shirt. I mean, if you wanted to make a definitional clothing example of promoting rape culture, that shirt is right up there with a T-shirt that says "Ben Roethlisberger Did Nothing Wrong". It's just not ok.
posted by norm at 7:41 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


People who have experienced trauma often suffer from a disorder called PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. When exposed to experiences or stimuli which causes them to recall that trauma, they experience the trauma again. The most famous example is Vietnam veterans experiencing something that reminds them of the war and reliving the horrors of combat. Sexual molestation very commonly causes PTSD. Something which is "triggering" is something which has a high chance of causing PTSD sufferers to have their PTSD triggered and relive the trauma. "Trigger warnings" are used to say "Hey, if you're a PTSD sufferer, this might trigger you, you might want to skip it" to enable sufferers to avoid being triggered.

The More You Know!


No, I get it, intellectually, I know what the concept means. I do not grok it. I do not have a deep and personal understanding of it, because I cannot, because I have not experienced it. I have to trust that the people who are triggered by things are triggered by them, whether or not I can put myself in their shoes. So I do. I trust them. And I try to be a good person about it and to understand it as best I can. Because I don't feel like I need to have a right to, whatever, live a life where I can enjoy things at other people's expense at all times.
posted by padraigin at 7:42 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


I've been conflicted about the whole Dickwolves thing from day one. As Justinian noted above, the original comic seemed to be about the fact that the MMoRPG setting is a sort of 'horror machine,' where every good deed gets reset 45 minutes later so that the next player can slay a monster/rescue a princess/whatever, leaving players calloused to everything other than XP and loot.

The cartoon's character goes into a mine filled with slaves, rescues five of them to satisfy a quest, and brushes off a sixth slave's please for help because it wouldn't give any loot or XP. The fact that things are really bad is communicated by the slave's words: "Every morning we are roused with savage blows, and every night we are raped to sleep by the dickwolves."

I'm reminded of the infamous Trucker's Delight animation that spawned a MeTa thread of doom a while back. It featured rape, the defense was that it was over-the-top and funny, and after a lot of thought I came to the conclusion that the really negative response that I have is to "humor" in which a victim is made the butt of the joke, or the target of further violation etc. Humor from the perspective of the abuser. When I read the dickwolves comic, I thought it was exactly the opposite: a comic about how horribly sociopathic someone would be to not help someone being raped and abused, the way MMoRPG protagonists ignore 'background victims' every day.

When some of the initial "That's horrible!" reactions rolled in, the reaction from Penny Arcade's creators work well with this. Essentially, "Dickwolves? That's what sent you over the edge? We have a character called 'The Merch' that kills childrens' parents if they don't keep buying tie-in merchandise." Both are treated as horrifying examples of something wrong, and the PA guys appear to think that the reaction against them was a misunderstanding about intent.

I'm also reminded of yesterday's thread about the Bitch Magazine Reading List, which had some books removed for including "triggering scenes." I can see good points on both sides of this that weren't there in the Trucker's Delight thread, and it troubles me. Is there a place for dark humor around horrible things? Is saying that the dark humor could trigger PTSD in people who've suffered IRL sufficient grounds to discourage anything but reverent silence around hot button issues? Is anything okay if it makes someone laugh? I don't know. It's a shitty scene. I just hope no one thinks I'm a rape apologist for not carrying my pitchfork eagerly on this one.
posted by verb at 7:42 AM on February 2, 2011 [28 favorites]


[Pope Guilty, planet: take it to email.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:42 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Then why do people want to wear Dickwolf T-shirts?

Because "Dickwolves" is a hilarious word (I hope that in a context-free environment, we can agree on that). Because if they read the strip at all, they didn't associate *every* Dickwolf with being a habitual rapist (if Murlocs were a stand-in, it might be more obvious?). Because they didn't realize the context of this shirt's creation, and figured it was made for fun, rather than as a reaction.

The shirt's just not as clearly "TEAM RAPISTS" as a lot of people would claim. I sent an email to Mike (Gabe) offering my support insofar as I think it was a funny strip and not really over-the-line, but also telling him that I believe he ought to back down and let "dickwolves" go. There's no real way to rehabilitate the cultural implications the joke has, so even if he were completely in the right, it's still not "good" for him to continue down the path.
posted by explosion at 7:43 AM on February 2, 2011


Honest question: Why do gamers need PR?

Because of things like this. This and the Open Source Boob Project.
posted by mippy at 7:43 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's about a culture of minimization of rape, in which rape is not taken seriously and in which the victims of rape are humiliated, mocked, harassed, and themselves accused.

You're laying a lot of stuff on this single web comic.

I think I understand the dickwolves t-shirts a bit better now. Very few people want to be hold the baggage you've just described, especially when it wasn't their intent. The t-shirt almost seems a minimal reaction in that light.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:44 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


and defense of-- the Team Rapist shirt.

I really, really wish you would stop saying this. It's no different than if I misquoted your words to make you look like a bad person. There is no "Team Rapist" shirt.
posted by Justinian at 7:44 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Penny Arcade guys have a history of being actively hostile when they are clearly in the wrong. Look at what they did to MeFi's own YoungAmerican, Jesse Thorn.

Last year, they were on a book tour for their 10th anniversary which they expressed numerous times they had no interest being on. Their final stop on the first leg was as guests on Jordan Jesse Go! A series of misunderstandings on the part of their publicist led to them being early for a show whose format they were unprepared for.

Instead of taking it in stride, they were either silent or actively unpleasant to the hosts.

Then they produced this comic which wouldn't be so bad (Jesse often pokes fun at the weirdness of running a public radio show out of his home) if it weren't accompanied by this newspost from Jerry which viciously attacks not only the show but Jesse personally. Mike chimes in further down that page.

Jesse responded and it was pretty clear he was blindsided by the vitriol.

Unsuprisingly, there's a lot of crossover between PA and JJGO's fanbases and PA's forums are filled with people defending JJGO and Jesse. Jesse stops by and is diplomatic about the whole thing. Mike chimes in, offers the kind of non-apology apology people are upset about in this situation, placing the blame squarely on Jesse.

At PAX East, they were asked at a Q&A if they had reconsidered their position since so many of their own fans had come out to defend Jesse. Mike reiterated the point above and offered no further apology or indication that they'd softened in their offensive stance.

Then Mike insults Jesse again (last post) in another post a month later. Jerry never speaks on the topic beyond his initial, vicious newspost.

With things like their Child's Play Charity and the community they bring together at PAX, they project a public image of two guys who have used their unexpected success as a force for good.

With their reactions to the incident with Jesse and the heartfelt concerns of their community over the ongoing Rape Wolf joke, they just seem to be the man-children they're working so hard not to be perceived as.

It makes it hard to be a fan.
posted by unsupervised at 7:46 AM on February 2, 2011 [53 favorites]


I didn't find the original comic to be overly offensive, though I can see how it could trigger others. It's really the act of making the T shirts (which I read as team pro-rape) that is offensive. It reminds me a lot of the controversy surrounding Chris Rock's controversial standup routine. It wasn't until his routine was taken out of it's original context that it became maximally offensive - it went from kind of funny in a horrible way to really hurtful once you have the Michael Scotts of the world quoting it.

Chris Rock's routine might not be the best example, but offensive jokes can be used to heal as well as hurt - for example, I've heard disabled friends make an off color joke about their disability to kind of break the ice and make it less of an elephant in the room. However, not all people with their disability would or should find those jokes funny or helpful, and it's not okay to take those jokes out of context.
posted by fermezporte at 7:46 AM on February 2, 2011


You're laying a lot of stuff on this single web comic.

You have to stop seeing it as "this web comic" as if it were a thing free of context, but instead understand the context it happens in- which is a society where rape culture holds sway- and react to it as it exists within that culture. We do not live in a cultural context where rape is taken seriously. Jokes are one of the more common manifestations of that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:46 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


There was a general sense at the time that people had hair triggers on calling out gamer culture for its misogyny. This was a great example of it being completely unwarranted but the response coming in force anyway. The dickwolves T-shirt, as a message, comes closer to "We don't let anybody boss us around" than "rape victims sure are dumb".

Anyone who's actually attacking the comic just sort of looks silly and is building a straw man to be effortlessly knocked down. The comic was obviously invoking the word "rape" as an awful torture that any normal person would do all in their power to prevent. The response comic was because people enjoy looking at straw men get knocked down.

I think gubi's confusion wasn't at the term "rape culture", which is sufficiently wide-spread that I think most people know it, but in reference to the original comic, which doesn't add to rape culture in any way. No hint of blaming or doubting the victim was in either the first comic or the response comic. No suggestion that the rape was in any way an acceptable thing to do... horrible monsters were doing it as a means of torturing slaves.
posted by EtzHadaat at 7:47 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not being an asshole doesn't make you a loser.

I think the asshole in the general set of conditions I describe is the person who wants to "win" the argument by appealing to emotion. Again, it's exactly what religious fundamentalists do when charging non-believers with blasphemy: they treat a contested, politicizes idea as literal truth, and then go on to claim that people who don't subscribe to it are not only wrong but must be "punished" or "educated" or some similar thing. It's the whole template for that type of argument that's the problem, not any one topic. The problem was perfectly (if inadvertently) summed up in the "Here's A Thing" post, where the options for Penny Arcade's creators were explicitly limited to A) Agree with the offended party or B) Be some sort of monstrous person who deserves to be pilloried. There is a wholesale failure to consider that the non-offended party could simply disagree; it's an attempt to turn offense into an unassailable support for ideas that are often quite wrongheaded (religious fundamentalism, legislation that harms homosexuals, vaccine denial, etc.)
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:49 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


I really, really wish you would stop saying this. It's no different than if I misquoted your words to make you look like a bad person. There is no "Team Rapist" shirt.

I said it just once, and while it is a framing technique to be sure, it's a fair one. But for the rape joke comic, there is no such thing as a Dickwolf. "Team Those-That-Rape-Male-NPCs-To-Sleep" just doesn't roll quite as trippingly off the tongue.
posted by norm at 7:49 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Making a flip, the-joke-is-that-he's-being-raped throwaway side joke is not simply "using rape in fictional setting".

Not to make too fine a point of it, but that wasn't the joke at all. The joke was that MMoRPG players are constantly expected to behave like sociopaths, leaving people in slavery and bondage because they don't "count" towards the game's ranking system.

That doesn't mean that the response wasn't dickish. That doesn't mean that the dismissive tone wasn't a problem. That doesn't mean that the comment was "appropriate." But it wasn't a "hah hah he's being raped!" comic.
posted by verb at 7:49 AM on February 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


The dickwolves T-shirt, as a message, comes closer to "We don't let anybody boss us around" than "rape victims sure are dumb".

If you're devoted to ignoring cultural context, perhaps.

I dunno, if anything's truly offensive here, it's the minimization of people who are genuinely concerned about rape culture- including many victims of rape as being attention-seekers or "just looking to be offended" or whathaveyou. It's a very common thing when people speak out against bigotry and hostility.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:49 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Pope Guilty: The joke isn't that it's terrible, the joke is rape. That the guys are getting raped is itself the joke.

Wow, you really missed the punchline. The rape is pretty much irrelevant. The joke is that the heroic PC, Defender of Good, doesn't care and walks away.

As others have said, that middle panel could have been anything awful. The more extreme it is, the more the absurdity of leaving the prisoner to his fate is highlighted. "Being raped to sleep by dickwolves" is an attempt to both be inherently funny (imagining 'dickwolves' is mildly amusing), and be so wildly over the top that the "hero's" utter amorality is brought into sharp focus.

But, sure enough, some people decided to climb out on a limb and insist that the rape was the focus of the comic, when it just absolutely wasn't. Any bad scenario would have sufficed.
posted by Malor at 7:50 AM on February 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


horrible monsters were doing it as a means of torturing slaves.

...and then we all go out and buy shirts expressing support for those horrible monsters, while Mike and Jerry laugh all the way to the fucking bank.

Yeah, not an example of rape culture at all.
posted by muddgirl at 7:50 AM on February 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


Not to make too fine a point of it, but that wasn't the joke at all. The joke was that MMoRPG players are constantly expected to behave like sociopaths, leaving people in slavery and bondage because they don't "count" towards the game's ranking system.

I've said it over and over in this thread: there are two jokes in that strip. The dickwolves line is a little joke intended to lead up to, and add oomph to, the final punchline.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:50 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Worse than our support - our allegience. Dickwolves are our mascot, for fuck's sake.
posted by muddgirl at 7:51 AM on February 2, 2011


No hint of blaming or doubting the victim was in either the first comic or the response comic. No suggestion that the rape was in any way an acceptable thing to do... horrible monsters were doing it as a means of torturing slaves.

Exactly. Nothing in the comic was minimizing rape whatsoever. Find it funny, find it unfunny, whatever. But just wow.

If they hadn't said "rape" but the joke otherwise remained the same, would it be funny? As someone who's quested those "only need to save 5" quests more than a few times, I gotta say yeah. They build a weird dynamic: be the savior of this world! But just hit the quota of savioring.
posted by grubi at 7:52 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


These guys are getting raped by monsters, and it's a joke, because rape is itself funny.

Totally wrong. It's a joke because the Hero doesn't care about something that is completely awful.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:52 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


I don't really understand why something so juvenile and puerile is worth defending. Couldn't they have shrugged, apologized, and gone on with life? I mean talk about your hills to die on...
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:52 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


A lot of people in this thread are purposely missing the joke and there's really no reason to explicate the strip anymore. These same people seem to want the concept of rape to be off-limits, and spoken off only in hushed and hallowed tones as it is somehow different from all the other terrible things that can and do happen to human beings. True, there is no equivalency for rape. There's also no equivalency for loosing a limb to an IED, or being deliberately set on fire in an honor killing, or being the target of a hate crime, or a million other terrible things that don't elicit this kind of reaction by their mere mention. It perhaps not surprising to see the "OMG no one may mention rape ever except in grim and serious tones" crowd resort to misinformation "Team Rapists shirts" and bullying; but it is disappointing.
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:53 AM on February 2, 2011 [14 favorites]


There is in "game" culture (*) an ugly knee-jerk, shallow, and negative reaction when it comes to criticism that's often worse than the original work. Game culture has an apparently glass jaw when it comes to criticism, resulting in extended flamewars of no you. I half suspect that some of the participants treat these flamewars as if they were a game, and that by obsessively mashing buttons on the keyboard and hitting the submit button, they'll find the hidden combo that gives a cinematic where they gloat over a rhetorical victory.

(*) Put in scare quotes because that culture is, curiously enough, dismissive of the kinds of games that are serious business in my family.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:54 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


I can see good points on both sides of this that weren't there in the Trucker's Delight thread, and it troubles me. Is there a place for dark humor around horrible things? Is saying that the dark humor could trigger PTSD in people

If there were, say, a website for people with epilepsy, and they had a post about "you shouldn't watch that one Pokemon episode," would there be a side of people arguing against them taking that off of their watching list?


Also...

Metafilter: The rape is pretty much irrelevant.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:54 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Exactly. Nothing in the comic was minimizing rape whatsoever. Find it funny, find it unfunny, whatever. But just wow.


Totally wrong. It's a joke because the Hero doesn't care about something that is completely awful.



Again: it is an additional joke which supports and adds strength to the ultimate punchline. This is something comedy writers do- you have something funny, which gets a laugh, and then you top it, which is not only another laugh, but is bigger because you're already laughing.

If they hadn't said "rape" but the joke otherwise remained the same, would it be funny? As someone who's quested those "only need to save 5" quests more than a few times, I gotta say yeah.

Exactly! So why use rape if it's not necessary to do so?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:54 AM on February 2, 2011


A lot of people in this thread are purposely missing the joke and there's really no reason to explicate the strip anymore. These same people seem to want the concept of rape to be off-limits, and spoken off only in hushed and hallowed tones as it is somehow different from all the other terrible things that can and do happen to human beings.

This is a lie and a vicious attack on people who have committed no crime except encouraging people not to be disgusting fuckbags.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:56 AM on February 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


I would have simply ignored Shakesville in the first place. The women there said their piece, and fine, they would have had the last word. ... but no, this is the Intarnetz! heheh

] insert rec.pets.cats reference and obligatory old-timer winkwink [

Cheerio!
posted by Ardiril at 7:56 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Again: it is an additional joke which supports and adds strength to the ultimate punchline. This is something comedy writers do- you have something funny, which gets a laugh, and then you top it, which is not only another laugh, but is bigger because you're already laughing.

1. As has already been said, if rape is supposed to be funny by itself, then the big joke at the end isn't funny at all. The big joke is only funny if rape is awful.

2. The little joke isn't "rape", it's trying to imagine what the hell a dickwolf is.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:57 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


If there were, say, a website for people with epilepsy, and they had a post about "you shouldn't watch that one Pokemon episode," would there be a side of people arguing against them taking that off of their watching list?

Probably not. In the case of this comic, though, the issue isn't about simply warning people, it's about accusing the creators of not caring about epileptics and suggesting that the cartoon was created to harm epileptics.
Metafilter: The rape is pretty much irrelevant.
Just for reference: If anyone reads this post or my other posts in this thread, I REQUEST THAT YOU DO NOT ASSUME I HOLD ANY OPINIONS THAT I HAVE NOT EXPLICITLY STATED.
posted by verb at 7:57 AM on February 2, 2011


If this had started with an article in an academic journal about the callous attitudes and values implied by games which say "you only save X NPCs from the horrible torment, leave the rest to suffer", and if some sort of ironic slogan or bumper sticker or whatever had been distributed at a conference for the field in which the author of the paper works, would we be having this debate?

If not, why?

If some other horrible form of inhumanity were substituted for rape, would we be having this debate?

If not, why?
posted by ubernostrum at 7:58 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well at least we're not getting all worked up about Republicans trying to redefine rape.
posted by Max Power at 7:58 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Are murder accusations routinely met with accusations that the dead had it coming, and shouldn't have been wearing that non-kevlar outfit?

The idea that getting killed is an "occupational hazard" to dealing drugs, or burglary or various other criminal activity is a pretty common one. Check the comments section of your local paper.

Hell, this metafilter post had a whole lot of "some folks just need killing" going on in it.
posted by electroboy at 7:58 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


So why use rape if it's not necessary to do so?

What does "necessary" have to do with comedy?

(Or an attempt at comedy?)
posted by grubi at 7:59 AM on February 2, 2011


1. As has already been said, if rape is supposed to be funny by itself, then the big joke at the end isn't funny at all. The big joke is only funny if rape is awful.

It's almost like a person can both think rape is awful and do and say things which minimize rape at the same time! Gee, that could never happen!


Well at least we're not getting all worked up about Republicans trying to redefine rape.

Two things:

Number one, fuck this shit right here. Just because there are greater ills in the world does not give you the right to be a lesser ill, nor does it make people who attack those lesser ills wrong.

Number two, if you had any ability to observe the world and connect the things you see happening, to figure out how the events around you relate to one another, you'd understand that jokes which make light of rape are both the product and a perpetuator of a culture in which rape is not taken seriously and in which rape victims are routinely minimized, harassed, ignored, and condemned. Rape culture is rape culture, and every bit of it must be attacked and torn down, not just the most egregious examples of it.

posted by Pope Guilty at 8:00 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well at least we're not getting all worked up about Republicans trying to redefine rape.

You are not paying attention.
posted by cortex at 8:00 AM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yes [rape is an element of World of Warcraft], apart from people talking about it, it is physically in the game.

I'm well aware of people using player animations to simulate rape or teabagging, and I'm well aware of what goes on in chat. My point was that, in my years of playing WoW I never encountered a situation where an NPC needed to be saved from sexual violence. That's what I mean when I say it's not an element of WoW. Obviously players can take any available sitting, crouching, squatting, or 'lie prone' animation and turn it into a representation of sexual violence (just look at Halo multiplayer), and any game with a chat system can be (and usually is) filled with references to sexual violence.

[That rape is not an element of World of Warcraft] is completely irrelevant, as the point of the joke is that even if the character were suffering a far worse fate than any portrayed in a MMORPG, the 'heros' would still not help them.

No, it is very relevant. Since it's not part of the game (by which I mean no NPC-in-need-of-rescue actually complains of sexual violence) the PA authors can't say "but we're just referring to the typical plot of these games." They imported sexual violence into the context of the game, and they imported it from the misogynistic gamer culture that all too often makes light of sexual violence. They took the sexual violence cue from gamer culture, not from the game itself. In doing so they were perpetuating a culture that says "even if the game is not about sexual violence, we will make it about sexual violence." That attitude is harmful to women, to victims of sexual violence, and ultimately to gamer culture.
posted by jedicus at 8:00 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


A lot of people in this thread are purposely missing the joke and there's really no reason to explicate the strip anymore.

Speaking only for myself, I think a lot of people in this thread are putting all their attention on the comic strip because it's actually remotely defensible. I think the strip is not particularly funny but oh well. It's the t-shirt, the one they were selling for money, that gamers were buying to wear and display their membership in if not TEAM RAPIST at least TEAM WE MAKE REFERENTIAL JOKES TO RAPE BECAUSE IT'S CONTROVERSIAL SO GET FUCKED YOU FUCKING FEMINISTS.

It perhaps not surprising to see the "OMG no one may mention rape ever except in grim and serious tones" crowd resort to misinformation "Team Rapists shirts" and bullying; but it is disappointing.

I take it you are not in this "crowd". Please, enlightened sir, please tell me the contexts in which rape is an excellent topic that is not grim or serious.
posted by norm at 8:00 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


If there were, say, a website for people with epilepsy, and they had a post about "you shouldn't watch that one Pokemon episode," would there be a side of people arguing against them taking that off of their watching list?

This seems more germane to the other thread, but I would hope there would be a side of people arguing against removing Pokemon from the watch list. The appropriate response is to recommend the show (if it has merit) with an epilepsy trigger warning. I'd much prefer recommended lists to include possibly difficult material with warnings than to remove it on the basis that it may trigger someone. Kind of like, "let us choose for our own kids, rather than banning books from the library outright."
posted by explosion at 8:01 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would argue that the joke in the strip uses rape as an example of a terrible thing. Just like you could use maiming or murder as an example of something very bad that can happen to you. There are don't drop the soap jokes that treat rape as not a serious thing but this isn't one of those.
posted by I Foody at 8:01 AM on February 2, 2011


or a million other terrible things that don't elicit this kind of reaction by their mere mention.

As has been said over and over in here, Rape is notable and different because of what has been termed Rape Culture. With most OtherTerribleThings, you don't have that culture around it, tormenting the victims.

Also, I really tire of people who say "It's just a...!" It's just silly. People spend a lot of time creating material. And whatever form it comes in, especially if it is from a 'popular' producer, it's not "just a ____", it is thought out and meaningful.

Boondocks comes to mind. Is it "just a comic"? Not at all. Ideas mean things. Words mean things. Depictions mean things.
posted by cashman at 8:02 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Murder culture"? Seriously? Are murder accusations routinely met with accusations that the dead had it coming, and shouldn't have been wearing that non-kevlar outfit? Are murder victims routinely slandered and their families harassed and silenced? Do we live in a culture in which the severity of murder is minimized and ignored? What a completely bullshit comparison.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. You may want to stop and think about what routinely goes on in murder trials.
posted by Amanojaku at 8:02 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


What does "necessary" have to do with comedy?

We live within a context in which rape is largely minimized and ignored, despite the lip service that is occasionally paid to it. In this context, we need to examine the things we say and ask ourselves whether our references to rape are done with sensitivity or insensitivity, whether they tend to minimize rape or treat it with the seriousness it deserves. We need to examine what we express and evaluate it. That many people think they should be able to just say whatever the fuck they feel like and nobody should be allowed to call them on it is bullshit.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:02 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Comics (especially web comics) are a poorly-respected entertainment medium. They have little if any cultural weight with people who matter.

Tell that to the artists who drew cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
posted by rtha at 8:02 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's almost like a person can both think rape is awful and do and say things which minimize rape at the same time! Gee, that could never happen!

You are changing the subject. I wasn't talking about whether this comic strip minimizes rape. I was saying there isn't a joke in it where we're supposed to think rape is funny.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:03 AM on February 2, 2011


Comics (especially web comics) are a poorly-respected entertainment medium. They have little if any cultural weight with people who matter.

"Tell that to the artists who drew cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad."

Or tell it to Thomas Nast.
posted by jedicus at 8:04 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is my take on this -

PA's original response (the shirt) was ridiculously immature. I love PA, but this was very nearly a deal breaker. The first complaint should've registered a 'ok, sorry' and they should've just dropped it. Instead, it was as if they chased the offendees around like a 13 year old boy going 'dickwolves dickwolves dickwolves' over and over again.

When a 13yo boy does that to a 13yo girl, it is inevitable that the 13yo girl is going to get angry and slap him. PA got slapped. Whether or not you want to look at this in terms of 'it was just a joke' or whatever, that's fine - but the point of the original comic - a very funny (to me) joke, has been lost in Mike and Jerry's infantile attempts at pushing back.

They had a chance to be classy about something that was mildly offensive to many people and deeply offensive to a nontrivial minority of people and instead were, well, dicks.
posted by Fuka at 8:04 AM on February 2, 2011 [28 favorites]


"Murder culture"? Seriously? Are murder accusations routinely met with accusations that the dead had it coming, and shouldn't have been wearing that non-kevlar outfit? Are murder victims routinely slandered and their families harassed and silenced? Do we live in a culture in which the severity of murder is minimized and ignored? \

You don't watch the news much, do you ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:05 AM on February 2, 2011


You have to stop seeing it as "this web comic" as if it were a thing free of context

No, you have to stop seeing mountains when there are anthills.

...but instead understand the context it happens in- which is a society where rape culture holds sway- and react to it as it exists within that culture. We do not live in a cultural context where rape is taken seriously.

I honestly don't understand what you're talking about here, as it seems you're making stuff up. Rape is taken seriously, there are laws against, people are put on trial for it and they go to jail. Could these be better with all the above? Sure, but for someone to write that rape isn't take seriously is just kinda bizarre, IMO
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:05 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]





If some other horrible form of inhumanity were substituted for rape, would we be having this debate?

Because, as has been suggested, there is a tendency in our culture to belittle the impact of rape. It is suggested that rape is very common, and often laughed off by those who feel they are not affected by it. It also tends to be seen as something that happens to a vulnerable segment of society more often than to the rest.

And nerds would rather die for their freedom of speech than admit that a joke was in poor taste. Which I can only hope is some odd, anti-social byproduct of deep insecurity, and not the total assholeishness it looks like.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:05 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


They had a chance to be classy about something that was mildly offensive to many people and deeply offensive to a nontrivial minority of people and instead were, well, dicks.

This.
posted by verb at 8:06 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, you have to stop seeing mountains when there are anthills.

Hang on, I'll hit it back over the net. Oh yeah, well YOU need to stop pretending those mountains are anthills just because you don't want to acknowledge that there are mountains!

I honestly don't understand what you're talking about here, as it seems you're making stuff up. Rape is taken seriously, there are laws against, people are put on trial for it and they go to jail. Could these be better with all the above? Sure, but for someone to write that rape isn't take seriously is just kinda bizarre, IMO

See? You want to pretend those mountains aren't there.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:06 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


In 2002, a guy on the Penny Arcade message boards had a great idea. He had recently had to visit the pediatric wing of his local hospital, I don't remember why, and was struck by how little there was for the children to do, besides lay in bed and suffer. So he rounded up a bunch of his old video game consoles and controllers and games, picked up more at the pawn shops, and took Segas and Nintendos and Playstations to a few local hospitals. He wasn't a rich guy, so he posted on the PA forums and said "hey, you guys all love video games as much as I do, but maybe you have some old stuff stored somewhere that you won't really be using again? If you do let me know and I'll pay postage to have it shipped here."

The response was very strong. Within a few weeks the bottleneck became his ability to become an official non-profit: lots of the hospitals were unwilling to work with a single strange person with no official papers or background, and the CPA he talked to advised him that all of the "donations" from online would be personal income unless he was a non-profit on paper. But filing all the paper work cost money, but accepting cash donations before he was a non-profit was going to fuck his personal taxes all to hell. The actual giving was halted, but the good will continued and people posted frequently to check for updates and post about things they had boxed up for whenever he was ready or garage sale finds they had bought to donate once that was available.

A few months later, Mike and Jerry (a.k.a. Gabe and Tycho a.k.a. Penny Arcade) started a charity called Child's Play that gives video games to pediatric facilities and hospitals. The whole thing got off the ground quite quickly, as the founders could easily afford the incorporation money as well as being able to easily draw in sponsorships and free stuff to re-gift. Neither of them gave anything form their personal collections.

The original chap emailed Mike and Jerry. He commended them on what a great idea, and let them know that in fact he, a poster on their very own message boards, had a similar idea, and enough goodies to fill a storage area, and a network of over a dozen hospitals which he already had a person relationship with for distributing and deploying and maintaining the consoles and games. He let them know that he was, now, an official non-profit, and that he had large spread support in place on their own network. He asked what he could do to help; how he could be a part of their system. They told him he could mail them the consoles and games, or send cash, but that they had no interest in further contact. After they undermined him wholesale and stole his entire concept.

So, yeah, the Penny Arcade guys are total fucking assholes. This point can pretty much be seen as covered. The fact that they found a new group of people to be dicks to is, really, not news in and of itself, though I can see how it could be frustrating.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:06 AM on February 2, 2011 [48 favorites]


We live within a context in which rape is largely minimized and ignored, despite the lip service that is occasionally paid to it.

That statement has a lot of assumption built in.

That many people think they should be able to just say whatever the fuck they feel like and nobody should be allowed to call them on it is bullshit.

Ah. So mention rape outside of the most serious of contexts and you're minimizing it. Thanks, got it.
posted by grubi at 8:06 AM on February 2, 2011


Well at least we're not getting all worked up about Republicans trying to redefine rape.

You do know there was a big thread about that on Metafilter a couple days ago? You are implying it was ignored, and it was not.
posted by Justinian at 8:06 AM on February 2, 2011


And nerds would rather die for their freedom of speech than admit that a joke was in poor taste. Which I can only hope is some odd, anti-social byproduct of deep insecurity, and not the total assholeishness it looks like.

We live in a culture that values social norm-reinforcing "free speech" to the degree that the idea that you have free speech, and not consequence-free speech, is a controversial one.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:07 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Like I said above, I thought the original comic was funny. But I don't get how anyone is proposing that the t-shirt does not say "Team Rapist". I mean, the role of the Dickwolves in the comic was... they were the rapists. The point of making the shirt is to thumb their noses at specific people, the people who were offended over the treatment of rape in that comic... or at the very least, the point of it is to say something, at least, about a controversy that centered around the issue and depiction of rape. So coming up with some theoretical other Dickwolves who have never been mentioned anywhere who aren't rapists, to say that the shirt is about Dickwolves in general, not all of whom are rapists, is rather a stretch it seems to me. But even if they existed... "Team Dickwolves, only some of us are rapists"?

Bah... on preview, norm says it better than me.
posted by XMLicious at 8:08 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


The little joke isn't "rape", it's trying to imagine what the hell a dickwolf is.

They went on to actually draw one, linked above. It is a wolf with penises as legs. Hah, hah!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:09 AM on February 2, 2011


paisley, are you talking about GetWellGamers?


That statement has a lot of assumption built in.

It has experience, including listening to rape victims relate their experiences, built in.

Ah. So mention rape outside of the most serious of contexts and you're minimizing it. Thanks, got it.

That isn't what I said at all and you know it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:09 AM on February 2, 2011


The shirt was way over the line. The joke is over the line to me, but then again I can just stop reading Penny Arcade. (And I did.) The shirt, otoh, was a celebration of something that most people would agree shouldn't be celebrated.

College sports.
posted by andreaazure at 8:10 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


As far as I can tell, the “joke” is usually that it wasn’t really rape at all, or it wasn’t a “real” rape, or it was a fun rape, or it was a deserved rape. Which, seeing as how rape victims get to hear that shit, completely seriously (and with completely serious consequences) from their rapist, friends, family, and cops, you might see as how it doesn’t come off as a joke so much as it comes off as same shit, different day.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:11 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


...but instead understand the context it happens in- which is a society where rape culture holds sway- and react to it as it exists within that culture. We do not live in a cultural context where rape is taken seriously.

I honestly don't understand what you're talking about here, as it seems you're making stuff up. Rape is taken seriously, there are laws against, people are put on trial for it and they go to jail. Could these be better with all the above? Sure, but for someone to write that rape isn't take seriously is just kinda bizarre, IMO


You ever get to the part in the discussion when you realize that someone else is just not even remotely conversant in the issues that you're supposed to be discussing? I'm getting that feeling right about.... here. Not going to go all 'grar' I'm just going to invite you to get educated about this large area with much scholarship and writing available for your edification prior to putting out such amazingly ignorant statements.
posted by norm at 8:12 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


That isn't what I said at all and you know it.

That's my point. Taking what someone said and extrapolating something else out of it is disingenuous and presumptive. My statement is as false as at least one you've made.
posted by grubi at 8:12 AM on February 2, 2011


Any bad scenario would have sufficed.

And I think in many people's minds, the fact that Mike felt safe using rape instead of some other bad scenario is the indication of rape culture.

I used to make deliberately offensive t-shirts, but my targets have always been political and religious in nature, not individual and personal. I've yet to meet a dittohead that didn't smile a little at a "Will Kill Rush Limbaugh For Food" shirt. I've had church groups want to repurpose the "Jesus Died For My Sins and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt" shirts, since it is theologically sound (salvation is by grace not by works). I have two versions of a shirt, one of my favorite concepts, but one of which I just won't wear anymore, in part due to the whole catholic priest scandal, because I can see someone seeing it as minimizing the victims, even though that wasn't my original intent. My intent WAS to push the priests-are-rapists joke, but you can't touch on the perp without at least alluding to the victim, and if you aren't saying anything positive about them, it leaves open the interpretation of tacit consent. Fair coverage of a touchy subject is rarely funny though, to anyone. Ignoring half the equation makes the joke easier to construct.
posted by nomisxid at 8:12 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


[It's a tough topic folks, coming in here and calling everyone assholes does not help you, the site, other people or the world at large. We have MetaTalk. You can use it.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:13 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


They told him he could mail them the consoles and games, or send cash, but that they had no interest in further contact. After they undermined him wholesale and stole his entire concept.

A nice tale, but just seems like proof that even starting a very successful charity will get people pissed off at you on the internet.
posted by smackfu at 8:13 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's my point. Taking what someone said and extrapolating something else out of it is disingenuous and presumptive. My statement is as false as at least one you've made.

Your desire to pretend that things happen in a vacuum does not have any bearing on reality.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:13 AM on February 2, 2011


Your desire to pretend that things happen in a vacuum does not have any bearing on reality.

Why are you getting personal?

I'm not pretending anything happens in a vacuum, but neither am I assuming a stance of everything-is-absolutely-connected-so-everybody-put-on-a-serious-face-for-fear-of-offense.
posted by grubi at 8:15 AM on February 2, 2011


For everyone yelling about how ridiculous the 'murder culture' comparison is to 'rape culture,' this is directly from the second link in the post, the flagship response of the offended:

"But unlike Gabe killing Tycho so he doesn't have to share a video game, a slave being raped is a real thing that happens in the world every day."

Go ahead and take a moment and let that sink in.

Slaves being raped? Something that happens in the real world every day. Unlike murder.
posted by silentpundit at 8:15 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


So coming up with some theoretical other Dickwolves who have never been mentioned anywhere who aren't rapists, to say that the shirt is about Dickwolves in general, not all of whom are rapists, is rather a stretch it seems to me. But even if they existed... "Team Dickwolves, only some of us are rapists"?

Again: the word "dickwolves" is a funny word. Outside of context, it's a great team name as a joke. You know what else is great outside of context? Teams named "Warriors," "Trojans," Wildcats," "Hurricanes," etc. The reality is that the first two kill and often enough rape, the third is known for mauling humans from time to time, and the last devastates communities. No one's calling for the Carolina Hurricanes to change their name, are they?

Ultimately, the "Dickwolves" t-shirt is no more "Team Rapists" than a "Trojans" jersey is "Team Killers and sometimes rapists."
posted by explosion at 8:15 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because, as has been suggested, there is a tendency in our culture to belittle the impact of rape.

There is a tendency in our culture to belittle the impact of many horrific things. This is sad and terrible and needs to change, but why do we single out one of those horrific things for this particular treatment, and not all of them?

It is suggested that rape is very common, and often laughed off by those who feel they are not affected by it. It also tends to be seen as something that happens to a vulnerable segment of society more often than to the rest.

See above. Rape is not unique in these respects.

And nerds would rather die for their freedom of speech than admit that a joke was in poor taste. Which I can only hope is some odd, anti-social byproduct of deep insecurity, and not the total assholeishness it looks like.

I don't understand why you're unable to talk about this without making ad hominem attacks against specific people and, by generalization, against entire subcultures to which they belong.
posted by ubernostrum at 8:16 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really don't see what's so hard. Some people are really offended by rape jokes. It wouldn't hurt people to not make them.

We just learned in a really horrible way about how rape can destroy lives.
posted by honeydew at 8:17 AM on February 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


I think everyone could stand to watch this.
posted by dry white toast at 8:18 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Justinian: "I don't disagree with your main point, l33tpolicywonk, but I don't think you can hold out Louis CK as somebody who isn't a dick in his comedy."

Here's the difference I think is really relevant: when you walk into a comedy club (or open up a webcomic), you should expect to get offended for the sake of comedy. That's a thing that happens in comedic performance, and I think it's on balance a net plus that there are certain artistic platforms which have that kind of carte blanche freedom. When you walk into the world and see someone wearing a t-shirt, you shouldn't have that same expectation.

Additional distinction that is probably more open for dispute: in interactions with individual people, Louis CK seems to make friends, and Gabe and Tycho seem to make enemies.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:18 AM on February 2, 2011


I've said it over and over in this thread: there are two jokes in that strip.

At this point you are shouting past each other -- yes, you've said it countless times that you see two jokes (rape as a joke plus hero acting as non-hero as a joke), and others have said that they see one joke (rape and beatings used as examples of how hero is non-hero). You can say it again and again that there are two jokes, or one joke, or five jokes -- there is no way to prove objectively one way or the other. Accusing the other side of "wilfully" ignoring the presence of the (claimed) second joke is both foolish and unfair. It's a discussion that can go nowhere because you are claiming the exclusive right to determine the substantive content of the joke.
posted by modernnomad at 8:18 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Hang on, I'll hit it back over the net. Oh yeah, well YOU need to stop pretending those mountains are anthills just because you don't want to acknowledge that there are mountains!


Do you want to stop here or should I send another volley back where I tell you how to think and/or act?

See? You want to pretend those mountains aren't there.

Not at all. It's obvious to me and I suspect you that are huge problems with how rape is treated and handled on societal and legal levels. Where we disagree is your blanket statement that rape isn't treated seriously. In some instances, no it isn't. It others, yes it is.

The comic could have been better. Their response could have been better. I'm not sure what else is being served by rehashing this shit out, over and over. As every single brick is not equally important in a house, so is every messed up usage of rape a blazing hammer firmly held in the manly hand of the patriarchy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:19 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


padraigin: " But then, you know, I've never been abused in any way, or sexually assaulted. So maybe I could just have some compassion and sensitivity toward people who have, and trust that they know what they're feeling, and do my best not to be hurtful toward them and to recognize areas where I can improve in this respect. It's not hard to do, and it's nice, so that's the route I'm trying to take."

This was well said. Thank you.
posted by zarq at 8:19 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah. So mention rape outside of the most serious of contexts and you're minimizing it. Thanks, got it.

Actually, Penny Arcade itself has made comics that point out the loathsome misogyny of gamer culture, including the way it treats sexual violence. Here's one, for example, and I know there are others.

So why is that comic okay in my mind when the dickwolves comic is not? Because that one is making fun of the misogyny of gamer culture rather than reinforcing it.
posted by jedicus at 8:19 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


When you walk into the world and see someone wearing a t-shirt, you shouldn't have that same expectation.

Absolutely; there are many things which are not out of place in a comedy club which don't belong on a t-shirt. I was just quibbling with the idea that Louis CK doesn't regularly cross some serious lines in his comedy.
posted by Justinian at 8:20 AM on February 2, 2011


I'm not sure I understand how people can defend the outrage at PA's responses by pointing to failure to object to murder or killing jokes in earlier PA comics as condoning them. "You're ok with murder but you're not ok with rape? Isn't murder worse?" seems to be the point.

I think its pretty clear that rape is seen as worse than murder as a topic of discussion / portrayal in modern (and probably earlier) Western culture. As jedicius noted above, there are no quests in MMORPGs where you have to go and rape something, whereas you are relentlessly killing all manners of things just so you can get a shinier belt. I doubt that such a quest would make it into an MMO (even though torture has).

How many movies can you think of where a rape scene is portrayed? The answer is few and far between, and in those instances (Irreversible, Hounddog, Shawshank Redemption, Once Upon A Time in America are the ones I can think of off the top of my head), the rape is highly remarked upon, a source of controversy, and uniformly uncomfortable for the narrative and the audience. Meanwhile, killings, murders, and all sorts of death by mayhem are a relentless part of movies in all genres, dramatic, comic, romantic, etc. Several genres are based entirely on how gruesomely you can kill someone. Can you imagine a "Saw" franchise where, instead of murder, its rape that's going on? I would guess the outcry would be (justifiably) enormous.

It seems pretty clear that rape is indeed worse than killing, for all sorts of reasons I won't describe here, and I think it's this "worseness" that gives the joke in the original comic its effective power, and why the outrage over the ensuing responses by PA is so fierce.
posted by shen1138 at 8:20 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Some people are really offended by rape jokes. It wouldn't hurt people to not make them.

Most people won't read this particular MeFi thread nor the others like it here and elsewhere.
posted by Ardiril at 8:21 AM on February 2, 2011


I really don't see what's so hard. Some people are really offended by rape jokes. It wouldn't hurt people to not make them.

People can be offended by any number of things. Does that mean everything that could possibly really offend anyone is off limits?
posted by SweetJesus at 8:22 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


So why is that comic okay in my mind when the dickwolves comic is not? Because that one is making fun of the misogyny of gamer culture rather than reinforcing it.

You think the dickwolves comic was saying it is a good thing that MMORPGs require players to be sociopaths?
posted by Justinian at 8:22 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]




I don't understand why you're unable to talk about this without making ad hominem attacks against specific people and, by generalization, against entire subcultures to which they belong.

It was a low blow, yeah.

In answer to that criticism and your other questions:

I've never bought that Free Speech should be a ticket to be a dick about things. The issue here isn't the initial joke, so much as how they handled the reaction to it. And the way they handled it seems to be pretty common in certain corners of the internet.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:23 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


> I don't really understand why something so juvenile and puerile is worth defending.

Totally. I would just add "or attacking."
posted by jfuller at 8:24 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was on the fence the past while on whether I was going to go to PAX (or PAX East) this year, because of this very 'debacle'; and what has been said here has convinced me not to go.

thanks mefi. i guess.
posted by yeoz at 8:24 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


People can be offended by any number of things. Does that mean everything that could possibly really offend anyone is off limits?

No, practically it means that thinking carefully about the value vs. cost of going there (for any given value of "there") is a big part of approaching humor or any other communicative medium responsibly. No one's required to be thoughtful, but if you want to not get negative feedback from people who think you've fucked up it's definitely a smart way to go.

The belief that it's smart and good to be thoughtful ahead of time, and gracious after the fact, when going for edgy humor does not require some cartoonish binary where NO JOKES ABOUT ANYTHING OFFENSIVE EVER is the thesis.
posted by cortex at 8:24 AM on February 2, 2011 [21 favorites]


It seems pretty clear that rape is indeed worse than killing, for all sorts of reasons I won't describe here, and I think it's this "worseness" that gives the joke in the original comic its effective power

Why then did everyone laugh when he drew the dickwolf with penises as its legs?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:25 AM on February 2, 2011


The joke is fine. The comic is fine. That could have blown over easily. I laughed and was not offended, and I think people who are, just fly off the handle at the slightest mention of rape and didn't even finish the comic. (Fine, trigger warnings and whatever, but this has always been an adult strip and can be messy at times.) We are meant to empathize with the victim and be horrified by the response of the hero - this is actually a pretty progressive comic in that it draws attention to the legitimate terror of rape and then makes us laugh when we recognize how we blow these things off so easily in an MMO (and other fictional) setting.

The t-shirt is damn offensive. It is a t-shirt which proudly announces your membership in a culture of rape. It completely erases the meaning of the original comic - now dickwolves are cool and I am one of them! (Yay rape!) It's even styled as an overtly masculine sports jersey to further emphasize the activity itself: guess what sport the dickwolves play?
posted by mek at 8:26 AM on February 2, 2011 [24 favorites]


I laughed and was not offended, and I think people who are, just fly off the handle at the slightest mention of rape and didn't even finish the comic.

Empathy is the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness) that are being experienced by another semi-sentient being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:27 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is sad and terrible and needs to change, but why do we single out one of those horrific things for this particular treatment, and not all of them?

For me it's about context. Gamer culture has problems with misogyny, and it manifests itself in ways that objective and demean real women. Gamer culture does not, however, have a particular problem with real-world non-sexual violence. There are many other things that gamer culture doesn't have problems with, and gaming comic strips about those are likely okay because they wouldn't be reinforcing problematic aspects of the culture.

Gamer culture does have problems with racism and homophobia, though, and a gaming comic strip that reinforced the use of racial and homophobic slurs would be particularly problematic as well. By contrast, strips that point out that such things are problems (e.g. this PA strip, somewhat indirectly) are fine and to be applauded.
posted by jedicus at 8:28 AM on February 2, 2011


We have to look at the numbers, right? How many people have been raped in the US? I can answer that one - 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be raped in their lifetimes. Holkins and Krauhlik think it's funny that we have to be sociopaths in games? What about the sociopaths that they almost assuredly know in real life?

(It's interesting that someone brought up honor killings - I believe 'honor culture' and 'rape culture' stem from the same impulses to treat women not as human beings, but as objects to be possessed).
posted by muddgirl at 8:28 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ultimately, the "Dickwolves" t-shirt is no more "Team Rapists" than a "Trojans" jersey is "Team Killers and sometimes rapists."

*sigh*

I feel like this should be pointed out, just on the off chance that you're not actually playing for Team Willfully Obtuse, like I rather expect you are. "Trojans" and "Warriors" and "Hurricanes" and the like are (or were) actual things with a context that exists outside of the world of sports.* "Dickwolves" was invented in a comic-- a panel-- a sentence that is a rape joke! There is no context for "Dickwolf" that is not "rapist". None.

*And you can test this for other controversies based on bad contexts outside of sports. May I recommend googling "North Dakota Fighting Sioux" or "Washington Redskins"?
posted by norm at 8:28 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why then did everyone laugh when he drew the dickwolf with penises as its legs?

Because it was a room full of people who don't think rape jokes are a big deal and the concept of a wolf with penises for legs is absurd and therefore funny. If you take it out of context and just see a wolf with penises for legs, sure, you'll get a chuckle, and the awkwardness of somebody drawing a wolf with penises for legs in front of a huge audience adds quite a bit to the humor (just like any random episode of The Office). It's when you combine "he's illustrating a rape joke" with "...in front of a room of people who don't think rape jokes are problematic" that one starts to go "dude, not cool".
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:29 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I would like to disagree on one point. I think Metafilter does this well indeed.The conversation may seem to go back and forth (or round and round), but I want to hear as many sides of an issue, each well argued, as I can. This passes for entertainment for me. You all totally rock on this score. There may be no winning side, but raised awareness is not nothing. For myself, I have been growing up for decades with no end in sight. Like the elderly of the past, it looks like society gets coarser as time goes by, even though nothing changes. Rape is obviously wrong, yet a subject of humor. I dread the world my kids are inheiriting, just like all parents through out time. Whether it's webcomics, comediens, libraries or online games, just remember that what you put down in your own hand speaks of you and who you are. If this is the kind of shit the guys at PA want to be known for throughout time, may something like asshat be on their tombstone. And Dvorak_b_q, your first post snagged over 100 comments with sketchy links. My compliments!
posted by Redhush at 8:30 AM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


Wow. In under two hours, this thread garnered over 200 comments.

Carry on.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:32 AM on February 2, 2011


Pope Guilty, this would be a better conversation all around if you didn't consistently ascribe the worst possible motives to anyone you disagree with. It's very difficult to have any sort of dialogue.
posted by Justinian at 8:33 AM on February 2, 2011 [17 favorites]


Pope Guilty, this would be a better conversation all around if you didn't consistently ascribe the worst possible motives to anyone you disagree with. It's very difficult to have any sort of dialogue.

It's fascinating that this is directed at me and not at the "PEOPLE WHO GET OFFENDED AT RAPE JOKES ARE JUST LOOKING TO BE OFFENDED BY SOMETHING" brigade.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:34 AM on February 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


Really, this could go both ways and it would be tremendous if everybody could take a couple deep breaths and try to go at this with a little more care.
posted by cortex at 8:35 AM on February 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


Again: the word "dickwolves" is a funny word. Outside of context, it's a great team name as a joke.

Which would be a great point if the objective of the shirt was that it was just a great jokey piece of fake sports paraphernalia. But it's not; the point of it is to comment on an issue about rape.

No one's calling for the Carolina Hurricanes to change their name, are they?

If they'd named the team that with the specific intention of it being a jab at people whose lives had been destroyed by a hurricane, yeah, I would call for them to change their name.

"Ha ha, it's just a funny joke, completely unrelated to any of the rape stuff! And also you should act like you're criticizing the name of an actual sports team!" seems even more bizarre to me than the "Hey, there could totally be lots of Dickwolves who aren't rapists."
posted by XMLicious at 8:36 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


You think the dickwolves comic was saying it is a good thing that MMORPGs require players to be sociopaths?

I said no such thing. The essential joke of the comic (MMORPGs encourage players to behave selfishly in contrast to their characters' supposedly heroic nature) is fine. My point was that the rape part of the joke was consciously created by the PA authors. It's not a reference to the plot of any WoW quest. And since jokes about sexual violence are common in gamer culture, using it in the comic reinforces that part of gamer culture.

Again, it took something that was funny enough within the context of the real game and added a completely unnecessary element of sexual violence, which is especially problematic because of the way gamer culture treats misogyny, homophobia, and sexual violence. It would have been enough to refer to the terrible fate that already awaits slaves in Warcraft. Such a strip would successfully point out the absurdity inherent in the game. The terrible fate could even be exaggerated a bit for comedic effect. But adding sexual violence is a change in kind not degree, and the added element is a particularly problematic one in this context.
posted by jedicus at 8:37 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mike is not good with 'womens issues', as he has demonstrated before.

Ho. Ly. Shit. WTF.

You know, just the other day I was trying to find a videogaming podcast that wouldn't make me want to throw my phone across the room because of sexist/racist/homophobic bullshit interspersed within. It's not easy at all.

Been following the strip since before Gabe could draw, but I'm pulling them from my feed right after I hit the post button.

I generally like PA ok, and I'd hoped this whole thing was just an aberration, but I don't think I'm going to give them any more ad-revenue either. Not that they care, I'm sure.
posted by kmz at 8:37 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


People can be offended by any number of things. Does that mean everything that could possibly really offend anyone is off limits?

Know your audience. Would you tell a filthy joke to a couple of particularly close friends in a bar, or onstage at a comedy club where people have come to laugh? Would you tell that same joke to your boss's wife? Or put it on a tee shirt?

When you make certain kinds of jokes, you are asking people to extend you a certain benefit of the doubt. That's why certain situations (comedy club) can handle tasteless humor really well -- and even then it often backfires. Asking random people on the internet or on the sidewalk to extend you the same benefit of the doubt is very presumptuous, to the point of being delusional.
posted by hermitosis at 8:37 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like the elderly of the past, it looks like society gets coarser as time goes by, even though nothing changes. Rape is obviously wrong, yet a subject of humor. I dread the world my kids are inheiriting, just like all parents through out time.

I disagree. At least we are talking about rape here, out in the open, rather than telling women that they should wish to die rather than lose their precious virginity, at which point they are too soiled to exist, or whatever our forefathers were preachin'.

Rape culture is nothing new - it's very old, actually. To me, society isn't getting worse - it's bringing ancient crimes to light. Of course this sort of attention hurts the people which benefit from darkness and secrecy. Of course they want to continue pretending that rape is something exceptionally rare.
posted by muddgirl at 8:38 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


And nerds would rather die for their freedom of speech than admit that a joke was in poor taste.

Not specific to nerds. Anyone will get defensive if accused of something, and get much more entrenched in their position than they ever planned on being.
posted by smackfu at 8:38 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Comics (especially web comics) are a poorly-respected entertainment medium. They have little if any cultural weight with people who matter.

So are weblogs. This is truely a tempest in a teapot, and personally, I'm getting a bit weary of both sides of recent "fail" controversies.

cortex: The belief that it's smart and good to be thoughtful ahead of time, and gracious after the fact, when going for edgy humor does not require some cartoonish binary where NO JOKES ABOUT ANYTHING OFFENSIVE EVER is the thesis.

Oh yes. Offensive joke is offensive. Authors and artists do more damage by petulantly attempting to get the last word of self-justification instead of taking it on the chin.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:38 AM on February 2, 2011


Some of my best friends are dickwolves, and almost all of them only ever engage in consensual sex. This blanket generalisation of dickwolves as rapists must end!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:39 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Jedicus: Thanks, that makes more sense to me. I don't know that I completely agree with you but I understand what you meant now.
posted by Justinian at 8:40 AM on February 2, 2011


Anyone will get defensive if accused of something, and get much more entrenched in their position than they ever planned on being.

And they'll get even more defensive and self-righteous if they feel they're being unfairly accused of something.
posted by Justinian at 8:42 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not specific to nerds. Anyone will get defensive if accused of something, and get much more entrenched in their position than they ever planned on being.

Yeah, that's the one of the major dynamics I see going on here. Doesn't make it right, but it's a big part of the fight.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:43 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]




Anyone will get defensive if accused of something, and get much more entrenched in their position than they ever planned on being


I wonder why any of us ever expected better from a comic artist that finds wolves with dicks for legs funny. ;)
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:45 AM on February 2, 2011


There is no context for "Dickwolf" that is not "rapist". None.

Oh?
posted by grubi at 8:45 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


The answer is few and far between, and in those instances (Irreversible, Hounddog, Shawshank Redemption, Once Upon A Time in America are the ones I can think of off the top of my head), the rape is highly remarked upon, a source of controversy, and uniformly uncomfortable for the narrative and the audience.

I agree with this general point, but I can think of counterexamples. High Plains Drifter - what a shame, in an otherwise good movie. Observe and Report (aka Taxi Driver 2009) has a very creepy rape scene, but, just like the rest of the story, it's pitched in such a way that it's hard to tell if it's supposed to be funny at first.

I think this comic falls mostly into the "don't drop the soap" realm of Let's Go To Prison. The person complaining about the rapes is a man. Even accounting for PA's problems with "women's issues", I don't think even PA would have drawn a woman complaining about rape. Make of that what you will.

(FWIW, I think the original comic is more or less fine, but I also understand the complaints, and perhaps most importantly, PA's responses have been dickish in the extreme, proving the critics ultimately right.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:45 AM on February 2, 2011


So, I don't know if anyone's brought up the important thing here:

Is that slave still back there?

Someone should go back and rescue that guy.
posted by jscott at 8:46 AM on February 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


Pope Guilty: “You have to stop seeing it as "this web comic" as if it were a thing free of context, but instead understand the context it happens in- which is a society where rape culture holds sway- and react to it as it exists within that culture. We do not live in a cultural context where rape is taken seriously. Jokes are one of the more common manifestations of that.”

Brandon Blatcher: “I honestly don't understand what you're talking about here, as it seems you're making stuff up. Rape is taken seriously, there are laws against, people are put on trial for it and they go to jail. Could these be better with all the above? Sure, but for someone to write that rape isn't take seriously is just kinda bizarre, IMO”

I want to point this out, because the difference here seems to be a complete difference in perspective between the two sides. And honestly it seems to me sometimes that males, and in particular gamer males, are not completely self-aware with respect to the way they sound and the way they appear to others.

Let me be perfectly clear about this: we do live in a culture where rape is made light of. Constantly. If you don't see this, I encourage you to be conscious of it, and watch for it, even for a few days, particularly if you know a lot of guys who game. I do, and I can't count the number of times I've had to call them out on this. Seriously, this sort of thing happens constantly:

"Dude, we totally got raped last night in WoW."

or

"Man, I can't believe this costs so much – I'm totally getting ass-raped here."

The point is: these aren't things that would be funny if they'd happened to you. They're only hilarious because you're sheltered, because you're safe from all that, and by acting as though everyone else should find them hilarious you're perpetuating a society in which one group of people is supposed to live in fear of violence and your group doesn't have to.

The original webcomic was obnoxious; it was a casual obnoxiousness, but believe me, after hundreds of thousands of guys over and over and over again make jokes like this where "rape" is part of the punchline, it starts to get very, very tiresome. And this is about a societal thing, a thing that happens over and over again. The point is that the joke didn't happen in a vacuum.

At the very least, we live in a "rape culture" in the sense that jokes concerning rape are constantly being made by people who have never had to face that kind of violence. That's worrisome; it's not just. Moreover, it's worth calling out, and trying to change. The "if you don't like it, don't read it" attitude makes sense if you feel no responsibility for what goes on in the world, and if you don't really give a crap about creating a society that's more thoughtful, more nurturing, and more just.
posted by koeselitz at 8:46 AM on February 2, 2011 [62 favorites]


Anyone will get defensive if accused of something, and get much more entrenched in their position than they ever planned on being.

Brother, I have been there and a half.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:47 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can see why the comic caused such a backlash. I understand the gravity of the issue and the horror of the experience. While this joke was not well crafted, do I now have to rescind my "until-now-unquestioned" admiration of the Tobias Fünke jokes?
posted by arveale at 8:47 AM on February 2, 2011


I think Metafilter does this well indeed.

On this I agree. As much as I'm tired of the back-and-forth, Metafilter does this better than 99% of the Internet that isn't specifically social justice focused (feminist/anti-racist/anti-homophobia blogs).

Most places where something like this is posted, the vast majority of the comments would be of the "people are too easily offended" or further offensive jokes variety.
posted by kmz at 8:47 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


(I didn't want to Favorite your comment grubi. But I had to. Grrr! =)
posted by andreaazure at 8:47 AM on February 2, 2011


jscott: Nah, fuck him.
posted by Ardiril at 8:47 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Comics (especially web comics) are a poorly-respected entertainment medium. They have little if any cultural weight with people who matter.

Which people are those? How can I recognize them? Do they have an official song, or a secret handshake or something? I mean, I'd hate to cut somebody off in traffic and then later on find out that he or she was a person who mattered.
posted by steambadger at 8:49 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let me be perfectly clear about this: we do live in a culture where rape is made light of.

Again, I'm going to disagree with that blanket statement. Depending on the context, rape can be treated seriously or lightly.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:52 AM on February 2, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: “Again, I'm going to disagree with that blanket statement. Depending on the context, rape can be treated seriously or lightly.”

In the context of the video-gaming community, is it treated seriously or lightly? Can you just answer that question? Or do you think the question is incoherent or something? Seriously, it's hard for me to see how you can ignore this. kmz seems to understand.
posted by koeselitz at 8:53 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


the comic could have completely omitted any mention of rape and been just as funny.

Alright, impress me. Fill in the line 'every night we are ___________' and make me laugh more than the PA strip did.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:55 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah Muddgirl, I envy your optimism. I see a wheel turning, you see it going somewhere
posted by Redhush at 8:55 AM on February 2, 2011


Know your audience. Would you tell a filthy joke to a couple of particularly close friends in a bar, or onstage at a comedy club where people have come to laugh? Would you tell that same joke to your boss's wife? Or put it on a tee shirt?

I think Penny Arcade does know their audience - hence their initial attempt at humor. Was it in poor taste? Yes - like many of their other previous jokes.

What they didn't think about was that if indeed this is a triggering subject for even a handful of their readers, they posted it on the internet - not in a chat window that scrolls out of view within 30 seconds. Permanence - while they know it - they did not know it in the context of rape.

They offended a 20% of their audience (guessing here), and attracted additional outsider attention, inflating their disgruntled audience but I'd gather that on this topic, the 80% audience majority (purile humor loving) suddenly found itself as the minority on the subject.

So yeah, they know their audience - they just didn't think it through as to what that specific joke's audience would actually be... and clearly they didn't really think it all through...
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:57 AM on February 2, 2011


Wow, I read through the whole debacle and was even on PA's side until Gabe started shitting all over twitter as of 01/31, holy shit. It's a decent strategy, I guess, to dismiss someone whose viewpoints you disagree with as being not worth your time, if you're 13... but to then go and actively mock any valid concern about rape? Yes, to your friends you're speaking tongue in cheek, and oh-you-would-never-do-that, but, to the general audience? Kerosene on a match...

I thought the original dickwolves comic was hysterical as I have done many of those quests and that's exactly it -- the dichotomy of "Save me, hero!" (Quest Completed!) "Help, help!" and you can't interact with them anymore.

The T-shirt, meh.

The coverage as of 01/31? Craaaaaaap. Stupid. Really stupid.

And I hope I don't need to wave a big 'I'M TOTALLY INTO THIRD WAVE FEMINISM' sign and back up my roots when I say really couldn't stand Courtney's blog. I hope she's as terribly important in the gaming commmunity as she thinks she is -- though I guess egos run wild in creative endeavors..
posted by cavalier at 8:58 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


They offended a 20% of their audience (guessing here)

I really, really doubt that.
posted by empath at 9:00 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


kmz: “As much as I'm tired of the back-and-forth, Metafilter does this better than 99% of the Internet that isn't specifically social justice focused (feminist/anti-racist/anti-homophobia blogs). Most places where something like this is posted, the vast majority of the comments would be of the "people are too easily offended" or further offensive jokes variety.”

Most places? That's pretty much what happened here. I agree with you that usually Metafilter is better at this kind of thing. But not today.

Anyway, I'm glad Pope Guilty and muddgirl (and a few others) are around. At least there's that.
posted by koeselitz at 9:00 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


I pulled out of PAX East over this. After reading the responses of both Gabe and his most ardent supporters, I decided I don't want to be part of their community anymore. What a bunch of petulant, arrogant, close-minded fuckwits.
posted by danb at 9:01 AM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


The darkest hour is just before dawn, arc of history bending slowly but inevitably towards justice, and all that.

I'm serious. I would rather Holkins and Krauhlik make their terrible jokes in public, where we can all see what sort of people they are, then make them in some segregated bath house or tavern or golf club.
posted by muddgirl at 9:01 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Pope Guilty: "You don't have to be "pro-rape" to be a contributor to rape culture. I know plenty of people, for example, who think rape is terrible but respond to news of somebody going to prison with "HURR LOL DON'T DROP THE SOAP LOL" jokes."

You keep saying that same thing again and again, but you are missing the point: people joke about being raped in captivity because it is a horrendous thing. It's one of the most horrendous things that can happen to you, and that's why people joke about it, and not because they're being cavalier about it. If they thought rape was just another thing, say just a notch above getting punched in the stomach, they wouldn't make the joke because it wouldn't be funny.

The wikipedia article on Gallows Humor has a fantastic quote from Freud that really nails it:
"The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure".
We do it because we don't want to think about it, because it is so fucking horrible, because we can't contemplate our destruction, so we turn it on its head. It is actually a beautiful thing, and that's how most of us soldier on through life while carrying our baggages. That's why these jokes rub us the right way.
posted by falameufilho at 9:01 AM on February 2, 2011 [23 favorites]


In the context of the video-gaming community, is it treated seriously or lightly? Can you just answer that question? Or do you think the question is incoherent or something? Seriously, it's hard for me to see how you can ignore this. kmz seems to understand

First, allow my to apologize for not being kmz and understanding things as you would like it.

2nd, the video game community definitely treats the issue more lightly. I don't think this is inherently bad thing, dark humor isn't unknown.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:02 AM on February 2, 2011


Man, those guys are some real dickwolves. And wearing a shirt that says "Team dickwolves" or something? Might as well just wear a shirt that says "I'm a poorly socialized 13 year old and I'm trying to grow a mustache. And I smell like Axe. Love me for my mind."
posted by octobersurprise at 9:02 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think Penny Arcade does know their audience - hence their initial attempt at humor.

But then they invited people to take the joke out into the wider world via apparel. Which tells me that they have a poor idea about how this sort of thing travels once you have to try and explain it to outsiders. OR that they just don't really care, which I think is the more likely option.
posted by hermitosis at 9:03 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]



Is that slave still back there?

Someone should go back and rescue that guy.


Don't worry, it's a daily.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:03 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know... in general I find the more I know about someone, or project, the greater appreciation I have for them/it. In all honesty PA seems to have fallen in the other category, where the more I find out about them the less I want to have to do with it.


As to "gaming culture" ... yeah several years ago I tried playing online games, the experience sucked. I liked the graphics and thought overall the game/s where good. But I loathed the experience because of other players.
posted by edgeways at 9:03 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Er, I think the Team Dickwolves thing is ironic. They're not wearing them pretending to be frat boys at a kegger. The fault is then when the irony is lost on somebody who has, say, been viciously savaged by a dickwolf.
posted by cavalier at 9:04 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


jedicus: There are many other things that gamer culture doesn't have problems with, and gaming comic strips about those are likely okay because they wouldn't be reinforcing problematic aspects of the culture.

I don't see this as reinforcing, though. Remember that what we're talking about here is a pretty biting critique of an implied value of certain games -- that essentially-sociopathic behavior is A-OK.

muddgirl: Holkins and Krauhlik think it's funny that we have to be sociopaths in games?

Personally, I don't mind dark humor; in fact, quite the opposite. The Onion gets it pitch-perfect every so often, and those are the stories I most appreciate from them; others occasionally do it too, and I think Penny Arcade came pretty close with the original comic.

Anyway. I've made and laughed at (and, importantly, been helped through a horrific life-fucking experience by and seen others helped by) jokes so far beyond this comic or this t-shirt that personally I'd feel like a hypocrite if I called them out for it.

This was part of the reason behind my original comment, which asked whether we'd be having this debate if it had instead started with an academic paper on the implied values systems of games like the ones Penny Arcade is satirizing. And I get that while it worked and works for me, not everyone will necessarily have the same reaction. But I don't get the witch hunt here; if it doesn't work for somebody, it doesn't work, and that's OK, but it doesn't mean this type of commentary needs to be attacked or declared off-limits.
posted by ubernostrum at 9:04 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


On a related note, I once tried to make a TEAM PRIAPIST t-shirt.

But it was too hard.
posted by Pants McCracky at 9:06 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


But then they invited people to take the joke out into the wider world via apparel. Which tells me that they have a poor idea about how this sort of thing travels once you have to try and explain it to outsiders. OR that they just don't really care, which I think is the more likely option.

I think Jerry's post about why the Dickwolves shirt was taken down from the store suggests that not-getting-it plus immature obstinance probably played a big part. He explains that several PA readers privately wrote to him and explained that they weren't comfortable coming to PAX with the shirt being worn there, because of what it implied, and that PAX wouldn't feel like a welcoming community for them. And he responded to that by taking down the shirt and saying that he hadn't really thought of it like that.

You can argue that it was purely cynical -- that PAX is about selling tickets while the comic is about selling ad impressions, so the difference in behavior makes sense. But it does suggest that even in situations with entrenched, childish behavior it's possible to make progress and open someone's eyes a bit.

And then of course the shit hit the fan on Twitter the day after that, and it all started sucking again. Sigh.
posted by verb at 9:08 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well actually, I'd rather prisoners, slaves, and refugees weren't raped at all. Then, perhaps, we could joke so casually about it.
posted by muddgirl at 9:08 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just an aside... ten years ago I worked at a t-shirt factory that printed gag t shirts. Our most offensive design (which I never had to print, it was just on the shelf waiting for an order) was a cartoon burglar pointing a gun at the viewer and saying "your money and a blow-job".

It was pulled out by my coworkers when the boss (and gag writer) was being a bigger than usual asshole. The rapey screen was pulled off the shelf, displayed, and eyes were rolled toward the boss with a WTF expression. It was used as a visual "eight year olds, dude".
posted by JBennett at 9:09 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: “First, allow my to apologize for not being kmz and understanding things as you would like it.”

Lack of understanding is not a moral issue.

“2nd, the video game community definitely treats the issue more lightly. I don't think this is inherently bad thing, dark humor isn't unknown.”

Okay. So the gamer community treats this more lightly; you offer that maybe this is "dark humor." But further, do you think the gaming community has a problem with misogyny? And if yes (maybe that's presumptuous of me to assume, I don't know) then doesn't it seem possible that this "lightness" when talking of rape might be connected to the problematic misogyny in the community? Just maybe?
posted by koeselitz at 9:09 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


paisley henosis, you miss the point again. The criticism of Jerry & Mike isn't that they're assholes who've never done anything good in their lives. No one has ever said that. The criticism is that the comic and shirt are offensive, or at least in poor taste.

Mike's reaction to that criticism has been itself offensive - going far beyond the comic and shirt, in my opinion. He has really shown how little he understands the issues at hand. He betrayed the same ignorance in his initial support of the "Seduction Artist" business. I'm surprised Jerry hasn't piped up about this, as he did then.
posted by SirNovember at 9:09 AM on February 2, 2011


Redhush: "I would like to disagree on one point. I think Metafilter does this well indeed.The conversation may seem to go back and forth (or round and round), but I want to hear as many sides of an issue, each well argued, as I can."

One of the most tiresome things about Metafilter are the collateral discussions on basically every fucking post about:

1) The post's right to exist
2) Forecasting if it will be an ugly or constructive discussion
3) If it's a heated debate, someone saying "METAFILTER DOESN'T DO THIS WELL" every five minutes
posted by falameufilho at 9:10 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


re: dark humor

“I think that the closer you are to a flame and the more you see people getting burned, the funnier you get, if you’re at all human. Or you put a gun in your mouth. Either you laugh or you cry.”

—David Simon
posted by yaymukund at 9:11 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Remember that what we're talking about here is a pretty biting critique of an implied value of certain games -- that essentially-sociopathic behavior is A-OK.

But my problem is that our culture confirms the exact same thing - essentially-sociopathic behavior is A-OK in the real world. It's not a particularly biting critique of games - it's a pedestrian and common one.
posted by muddgirl at 9:11 AM on February 2, 2011


"Here's a joke about how callous MMORGs are."
"You mentioned rape in that joke! You like rape!"
"What? You're crazy. We don't like rape!"
"Fuck you! Don't dismiss me!"
"Fuck you! Have a t-shirt!"
Take it down you rape lover!
Fine. Bitch.

Is that about right?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:12 AM on February 2, 2011 [19 favorites]


I've been sitting here for an hour and reading this thread and wow, great comments from everyone. And a great thought provoking FPP.

I don't think dickwolves are bad, they're just drawn that way.

I think that's the least snarky thing I can say.
posted by Catblack at 9:13 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: "Well actually, I'd rather prisoners, slaves, and refugees weren't raped at all. Then, perhaps, we could joke so casually about it."

WE JOKE EXACTLY BECAUSE THEY ARE.
WE JOKE BECAUSE WE'RE AFRAID IT COULD HAPPEN TO US.

Why is human nature so fucking foreign to you?
posted by falameufilho at 9:14 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


I pulled out of PAX East over this. After reading the responses of both Gabe and his most ardent supporters, I decided I don't want to be part of their community anymore. What a bunch of petulant, arrogant, close-minded fuckwits.

I really wish you and others wouldn't. I'm going to go despite all this, and because PAX is so much more than just Gabe and Tycho. PAX and the gaming community at large need people who care to stick around and attempt to address issues, rather than shedding mature people who've "outgrown" or "feel ashamed" of gaming culture.

In between the folks shouting "YOU'RE PART OF A RAPE CULTURE" and the other side of "FUCK YOU IT'S A JOKE," there are a lot of people (including people in this thread) who see nuance and are being swayed and convinced even as we debate here.

Ultimately, a fan saying, "I'm here for the con, your strip's also pretty good, but this was problematic, please hear me out." is a lot more convincing than "Fuck PAX, I'm out." I imagine Gabe also would've responded better if someone went out of their way to carefully consider the nuance rather than applying the obviously loaded term "rape culture."

Anyway, I'm going to be going, and my wife will be too, because as she says, "and I'm seriously considering dressing up this year because I know someone will get punched the fuck out if he grabs at me." Despite issues with the figureheads, the con as a whole is a definite positive good, and better than a lot of other, similar cons.
posted by explosion at 9:16 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Know any good Holocaust jokes?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:18 AM on February 2, 2011


WE JOKE BECAUSE WE'RE AFRAID IT COULD HAPPEN TO US.

Yeah, no. I seriously doubt Holkins or Krauhlik (or you) have to worry that you will be imprisoned or a refugee of war. Really, if you joke about rape because you're afraid of being raped in prison or in a refugee camp, then perhaps you should see a therapist.
posted by muddgirl at 9:18 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


But I don't get the witch hunt here; if it doesn't work for somebody, it doesn't work, and that's OK, but it doesn't mean this type of commentary needs to be attacked or declared off-limits.

It's not a witch hunt. You publish something, you get critizied by people who disagree with you. It's the nature of the business. Offensive humor is offensive.

And if you insist on stirring the shit with a comic response, a t-shirt, and a series of ugly twiter messages, people are going to continue to disagree.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:19 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


ChurchHatesTucker: “Is that about right?”

No.
posted by koeselitz at 9:19 AM on February 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


Personally, I have a pretty high chance of being raped in my life (and I have had several experiences that would be described as sexual assault), and yet I do not find myself making rape jokes out of fear. I will make jokes about rape culture.
posted by muddgirl at 9:21 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


3) If it's a heated debate, someone saying "METAFILTER DOESN'T DO THIS WELL" every five minutes,

Where "does this well" usually appears to mean "agrees almost unanimously with my obviously correct position", yes.
posted by Justinian at 9:21 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ultimately, a fan saying, "I'm here for the con, your strip's also pretty good, but this was problematic, please hear me out." is a lot more convincing than "Fuck PAX, I'm out."

I'd say nobody showing up at their get-together would be a pretty strong message.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:21 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay. So the gamer community treats this more lightly; you offer that maybe this is "dark humor." But further, do you think the gaming community has a problem with misogyny? And if yes (maybe that's presumptuous of me to assume, I don't know) then doesn't it seem possible that this "lightness" when talking of rape might be connected to the problematic misogyny in the community? Just maybe?

No, I don't think the gaming community has a problem with hating women. I think it has a problem with being an insular community of privileged class and can be pretty ignorant about issues that matter or matter more to women as a group.

Does the dark humor and sexist humor contribute to that ignorance? I'd say it's probably more of a ugly circle where it's symptom of ignorance which can help perpetuate itself.

Am I more like kmz now? Is that enough to make you love me?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:22 AM on February 2, 2011


...and even those sometimes make me feel uncomfortable.
posted by muddgirl at 9:22 AM on February 2, 2011


I think it's pretty telling that they went from "We've pulled the shirt because we heard from some people that it would make them uncomfortable at PAX to see people walking around and wearing them, and we don't wanna do that" to "hurr hurr I'm gonna wear my Dickwolves shirt at PAX." I mean, which is it? Do you not want to contribute to people feeling uncomfortable, or do you want to contribute directly to people feeling uncomfortable?
posted by KathrynT at 9:22 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Alright, impress me. Fill in the line 'every night we are ___________' and make me laugh more than the PA strip did.

"curbstomped by hobbits"
posted by pyramid termite at 9:23 AM on February 2, 2011 [35 favorites]


So when Benny Hill did the bit about the psychologist's office sign being misread (the letters were meant to say THERAPIST but an inconvenient space between letters rendered it... slightly different).. am I supposed to be mad at him for that?

Or at Tobias Fünke when his cluelessness keeps him from hearing his god-awful portmanteau of "analyst" and "therapist" as the word he really made?

SOMEONE TELL ME HOW TO FEEL
posted by grubi at 9:23 AM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'd say nobody showing up at their get-together would be a pretty strong message.

About 70,000 people went to PAX last year. PAX is huge.
posted by Justinian at 9:23 AM on February 2, 2011


Personally, I have a pretty high chance of being raped in my life (and I have had several experiences that would be described as sexual assault), and yet I do not find myself making rape jokes out of fear.

Wait, hang on, this alarms me. Why do you feel you have a pretty high chance of being raped?
posted by cavalier at 9:24 AM on February 2, 2011


I say this not to generalize an entire group of people but to reflect my personal experience. I have known and been friends with (and lived with, and dated) many, many gamers. And in my experience, the gamers I knew were as a whole the most blatantly and unapologetically misogynist and homophobic people I knew. Being called feminine or gay (often synonymous in this context) was the worst type of insult you could levy against another person.

While they would insist that they love women and "know" gay people, the truth is that they were perpetuating misogyny and homophobia on a daily basis. Anyone who didn't find this amusing was shut down, silenced, etc, for being humorless.

Rape is a horrible truth to so many millions of women, and yet hearing someone threaten to "rape" their friend in a game, or as a punitive measure, or saying that a bad taco "raped their mouth" or saying that a girl they found unattractive "raped their eyes" - completely desensitizes a word which is a horrible, unspeakable act. I have seen a rape victim in a room full of gamers who were throwing rape jokes left and right. She sat there in silence, jaw clenched, trying to be a sport and go along with it and not walk away, cry, or yell at them. Because they acted like hanging out with them was a rare privilege not afforded to many girls, she felt she had to be "cool" and take whatever they put out there.

These guys were my friends, and if someone slapped them down (calling them out on homophobia seemed the one thing people were most likely to call them out on) they would stop in the presence of that person for a time but eventually would go back to the language they shared amongst themselves and the people they played with. They would not want to hurt an individual but would also need desperately to fit in with one another. They used this humor as a way to set themselves apart, to be edgy, to be non-conformist and "non-PC".

The worst threat in their lives was not sexual violence or gender bias, but "censorship" - the idea that anyone could ever stop them from their right to speak. As young, generally-white, straight males, they have never had their privilege truly challenged. Their perception of themselves as cultural outsiders who do not have to follow the same rules. They view themselves as lacking cultural capital in the sense that they are not the richer, more powerful alpha males of the world. They saw themselves as victims of the women who were not sleeping with them, victims to the world that told them they were lesser beings than the richer, more masculine, more powerful men who stood above them. And while they would just as quickly claim that their actions/behavior had no effect on the dominant culture, I would like to point out that the entire marketing industry is driven almost wholly by their demographic. If that's not cultural clout, I don't know what is.

What they didn't understand the fact that their very freedom to speak was actively hurting and oppressing others. They didn't know about the fact that what they thought was "edgy" was actually just reinforcing the dominant culture steeped misogyny and which glamorizes rape as an act while at the same turn debasing and blaming its victims. They did not think about themselves in the global or local sense as being so close to the top of the privilege tower that they could nearly touch it. That they, too, are victims of the misogynist culture they help to reinforce. That you can joke about whatever you want to, but that you can't be surprised or angry when someone is hurt, offended, upset or unimpressed with your lack of sensitivity and callous disregard for the lives and experiences that differ from your own. And that telling someone that they aren't entitled to their feelings or experiences is a way that cultural oppression silences people - even if you "didn't really mean it" and even if "it's just a joke".

As an additional aside, I would like to address the "sense of humor" angle of this. As has been mentioned repeatedly all over MetaFilter, telling people something is "just a joke" is the classic method of shutting down someone's objections and cutting the legs out from under their opinion. It is childish and silly to do this, and is often done because people have no real defense.

Actual comedy, the good kind, comes from truth telling, from skewering the status quo, from pointing out hypocrisy, and from a place where the butt of the joke is the powerful, or the comic themselves. It does not come from throwing out the first potentially upsetting or scandalous thing that you can think of. As someone who performs comedy and does pretty damn well at it, I can tell you the people who bomb are the ones who lean on this type of humor. They are also usually either very clueless, very young, or just desperately unfunny people.

And yet still people clamor to say, "well, it was just a joke...maybe an unfunny one, but still only a joke..." - how dare you? Why defend the indefensible? Why go out on a limb for the Two and a Half Men of jokes, when there are so many razor sharp, smart, thoughtful and provocative jokes that could be made? You're reinforcing the creation of bad comedy on top of the already acknowledged SHITTY BEHAVIOR, and rewarding the horribly unfunny person with positive, or at least neutral, response. Why do you hate funny?

posted by SassHat at 9:25 AM on February 2, 2011 [178 favorites]


"Fuck you! Have a t-shirt!"
Take it down you rape lover!
Fine. Bitch.

Is that about right?

More like "Fine. Bitch. By the way, I'm wearing the shirt to PAX, so eat it."

On the one hand, yeah, he's a man-child. On the other hand, I support repeatedly trolling people who are immune to rational discourse.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 9:25 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Or at Tobias Fünke when his cluelessness keeps him from hearing his god-awful portmanteau of "analyst" and "therapist" as the word he really made?

It's almost like it's ajoke about cluelessness and not about rape!
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:25 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


So when Benny Hill did the bit about the psychologist's office sign being misread (the letters were meant to say THERAPIST but an inconvenient space between letters rendered it... slightly different).. am I supposed to be mad at him for that?

Did you seriously just cite The Onion?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:26 AM on February 2, 2011


You know what really doesn't help? The shorthanding of 'rape minimization culture' to 'rape culture.' Because rape minimization -- while horrible, bad and definitely something that people should try to avoid -- is not in the same league as rape.

So here we have a grey-area joke that seems to make rape part of the humor for some people. Certainly PA didn't take out an advertisement suggesting that all women should be raped, and they didn't make the tired old prison pound him in the ass joke, and they didn't laugh at an actual real life rape victim, etc., etc. But they might have been more sensitive, and reasonable people can disagree.

But out come the Popes and others saying "you are part of rape culture. You are on team rapist." Which to any reasonable ear is drawing false equivalence between these two comic book guys making a joke (which may be careless and insensitive) and forcing themselves brutally on an unwilling victim.

Language matters; and degree matters. Given the insensitive but indirect and non celebratory way that they used rape in the strip, the PA guys deserve a wrist slap maybe, but being called team rape and part of rape culture, like they have 'yay rape' banners up all over their house and watch RapeTV and eat Rape Nuts for breakfast? You can only cry wolf so many times.
posted by felix at 9:26 AM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]



Wait, hang on, this alarms me. Why do you feel you have a pretty high chance of being raped?

One in six women are raped. We're not talking Lotto odds here.
posted by SassHat at 9:27 AM on February 2, 2011 [31 favorites]


You can only cry wolf so many times.

Or, you can cry "dickwolf" once.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:27 AM on February 2, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: “Am I more like kmz now? Is that enough to make you love me?”

I don't get these snide remarks.

Anyway, I don't say "dark humor" contributes to "ignorance." I'm not making some point about how gamers are evil. I don't think they are, else I wouldn't hang out with them, live with them, spend most of my time with them, etc.

All I'm saying is this: (a) the gaming community often makes jokey references to rape; (b) these jokes alienate people who've actually been raped.

Maybe my reasoning is flawed here. Maybe I'm being simplistic. Please tell me if I am.
posted by koeselitz at 9:27 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I saw that there was controversy over a PA strip, and clicked the link, and saw which strip it was about, I initially assumed the controversy would be about how they were treating slavery lightly.
posted by gurple at 9:28 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a comic strip. On the internet. Fucking. Relax. People.
posted by brand-gnu at 9:28 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


But out come the Popes and others saying "you are part of rape culture. You are on team rapist." Which to any reasonable ear is drawing false equivalence between these two comic book guys making a joke (which may be careless and insensitive) and forcing themselves brutally on an unwilling victim.

Fortunately for the Popes and others, that is in fact not the argument but a dishonest characterization of that argument.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:28 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't personally think the "we won't sell the shirts but I'm going to wear mine" is really that hard to grok. I don't agree with it, but it's not that difficult to understand: people are telling him they feel uncomfortable attending an event that promotes such-and-such (for reasons he disagrees with). So he's saying, okay, we won't promote it, but I'll voice my disagreement with your reasons as an individual by wearing the shirt.

I do think it's dumb, but I think poor communication is happening on both sides of the debate, and maybe the people mad at them need to think about how the way in which they deliver the message might affect the people who haven't spent much time thinking about that message.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:29 AM on February 2, 2011


I'd say nobody showing up at their get-together would be a pretty strong message.

That's not likely to happen, though. People have myriad reasons to attend, and funny enough, Penny Arcade itself is low on the list of reasons. It's a huge convention with music, board and card games, movies, video games, role-playing games, and also a couple of comic-related panels. If you've never even heard of Penny Arcade, there's still a huge amount of stuff to do, and you'll still have a blast.

Then again, I'm not great at standing up for my principles. My boycott against Disney basically crumbled in the face of Pixar being awesome. I'm quite relieved that Pixar's free from Disney again. That being said, I'm pretty sure the Penny Arcade guys are reasonable and human, and engaging in calm, thoughtful discourse is a better way to convince them than boycotts and kneejerk loaded labels like "Rape Culture."
posted by explosion at 9:30 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, hang on, this alarms me. Why do you feel you have a pretty high chance of being raped?

One in six women are raped. A rape occurs every two minutes in the United States. By averages, 95 people have been raped in the United Sates since this topic was posted to Metafilter.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:31 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


But, see, it's not a dishonest characterization to them. And the way it's being framed (insisting that the joke is "a rape joke" and insisting on calling the shirt "team rapist" is going to perpetually encourage that interpretation. Talk to them like they're thinking individuals, not horrible people you're trying to tear limb from limb.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:31 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rape humor is the new Eternal September of the Web. Each discussion of it is the first discussion of the subject you've ever had, repeated on an endless loop.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:31 AM on February 2, 2011 [23 favorites]


It's almost like it's a joke about cluelessness and not about rape!

Wait, didn't you spend half the thread insisting that the PA strip couldn't be a joke about MMORPGs and not rape? Why are you willing to give Arrested Development a pass? This is sort of what I was talking about earlier. You want to like AD so you're giving them the most charitable reading possible while you want to (or feel you should) dislike PA so you give them the most uncharitable reading possible.

The Arrested Development joke, while not quite exactly about rape, is vastly closer to a true "rape joke" than the original PA strip!
posted by Justinian at 9:32 AM on February 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


grubi: “So when Benny Hill did the bit about the psychologist's office sign being misread (the letters were meant to say THERAPIST but an inconvenient space between letters rendered it... slightly different).. am I supposed to be mad at him for that?”

It's Benny Hill. Of course it's misogynist. Seriously, is there any confusion about this now? I thought everybody agreed on that.
posted by koeselitz at 9:33 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


But then they invited people to take the joke out into the wider world via apparel. Which tells me that they have a poor idea about how this sort of thing travels once you have to try and explain it to outsiders.

Go to any of these places and you'll find apparel, posters and stickers which hopefully travel poorly and someone will find offensive enough to picket:

On the web:
T-shirt Hell
Unamerican.

In the mall:
Spencer Gifts
Hot Topic.

Meeups:
Bike Week in Daytona
Prison
Tea Party Rallies
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:33 AM on February 2, 2011


The rape is pretty much irrelevant. The joke is that the heroic PC, Defender of Good, doesn't care and walks away.

You see, I think this is true, the punchline "Dude, don't get weird on me" is mildly funny. But that only means that the reference to rape is either purely gratuitous or functioning as another joke. The punchline would've been just as funny (which is to say, somewhat) if the slavers were zombies or mindflayers or cattle or huge wedges of cheese. The punchline holds its own. So why even make a reference to rape at all unless the rape is a joke, too?
posted by octobersurprise at 9:34 AM on February 2, 2011


It's a comic strip. On the internet. Fucking. Relax. People.

Okay, this one's for Pope Guilty. If you think this entire topic of conversation is beneath you, feel free to show yourself the door rather than tell us it's not worth talking about. Thanks.
posted by Justinian at 9:34 AM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


When I saw that there was controversy over a PA strip, and clicked the link, and saw which strip it was about, I initially assumed the controversy would be about how they were treating slavery lightly.

Again, context. Slavery is an element of World of Warcraft (there are enslaved NPCs in need of rescuing), but sexual violence is not. Gamer culture does not have a noted problem with its attitude toward slavery or human trafficking (there is endemic racism, however), whereas it does have a problem with misogyny and sexual violence (e.g. all too often gamers say things like "I will make you my bitch" but rarely things like "I will make you my slave").
posted by jedicus at 9:34 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's almost like it's ajoke about cluelessness and not about rape!

I don't know if I agree with you there, Pope Guilty. I think your comment here applies equally to the Arrested Development joke.
posted by ODiV at 9:35 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


This t-shirt does an excellent job of labeling the wearer as a PA-reading gamer who clearly does not care about taking the opinions of others into consideration.

The problem seems, to me, to be whether you take the last part of that description as a compliment or an insult. Honestly, I meant it as an insult. There is a difference between leading a life true to one's self without letting society dictate who you are and buying a t-shirt to let someone else's opinion express how little consideration you have for those around you.

Purchaser of this shirt, you may think you are saying "I don't let anyone tell me what I can't say", but what I am reading is "I am a derivative asshole who can't communicate outside of his own subculture." You are going out of your way to ally yourself with an argument for insensitivity and trolling over a throwaway joke that wasn't that hilarious in the first place. There are better stands to take, better jokes to make, and better designed t-shirts to wear. And dump that "No, I Won't Fix Your Computer" shirt too, no one planned on asking you to.
posted by maryr at 9:35 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's Benny Hill. Of course it's misogynist. Seriously, is there any confusion about this now? I thought everybody agreed on that.

But it wasn't Benny Hill, it was in The Onion. Even Benny Hill didn't go there.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:35 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


people joke about being raped in captivity because it is a horrendous thing.

*boggles* I'm pretty sure 99% of prison rape jokes are not some kind of "there but for the grace of God" gallows humor. They're almost always insinuations that (specific) prisoners deserve that kind of abuse. See Bernie Madoff, terror suspects, etc.

And if people could stop using my username as an adjective or something, I'd really fucking appreciate it. Kthx.
posted by kmz at 9:36 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Upon first reading the comic strip (before following the other links that make the topic of debate clearer), I thought that the controversy was around the use of slavery as a topic of humor, especially since it was part of the main joke and appears in the comic's title. Later, as I was reading the other links, I began to wonder why the debate coalesced around rape, a secondary (although no less horrible) theme, while slavery receded onto the horizon. Has anybody seen responses to the comic that critique the use of slavery here?

As someone earlier had also mentioned, it's also striking how the reference in the comic strip was to a male slave being violated by penises, but the debate quickly became gender-polarized and focused on cross-gender rape (male-on-female). No questions about the homophobia latent in man-on-man rape jokes, at least among the main participants in the debate.

Not that cultural critique is a zero-sum game or anything, but I'm still not sure what to make of where this debate went, and where it didn't.
posted by LMGM at 9:36 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Really, if you joke about rape because you're afraid of being raped in prison or in a refugee camp, then perhaps you should see a therapist.

Did you seriously just dismiss prison rape?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:36 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm quite relieved that Pixar's free from Disney again.

Pixar became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Disney in 2006.

posted by jedicus at 9:37 AM on February 2, 2011


Any bad scenario would have sufficed.

And I think in many people's minds, the fact that Mike felt safe using rape instead of some other bad scenario is the indication of rape culture.


And yeah sure, we treat rape as a crime in this culture, unless you're a famous movie director who leaves the country to avoid doing time; then it's just an unfortunate impediment to your career. And how many prison-rape jokes do we hear in our lives? That's still rape, right? Not really funny? Then why do we treat it as such?

Why do we use "fuck you" as an expletive, actually, unless the act of fucking someone were something often regarded as hostile? Why do we call someone our "bitch" when they are made to be submissive--I mean, that's pretty much all of rape culture summed up in one insult, right there, isn't it? Someone whom we are forcing sex on, as one does to an inferior, regardless of their wishes?

Our language is filled with forcible-sex-as-weapon images and analogies, with jokes and phobias about being raped or raping (homophobics use it all the time), with the ideas of sexual dominance and violence as acts of mastery and power. That's rape culture and it does influence us, and the fact that gamers, who live in a world of faux combat and violence, have adopted it should not be surprising.

That doesn't mean we can't call them on it and try to affect change.
posted by emjaybee at 9:37 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


muddgirl: "Really, if you joke about rape because you're afraid of being raped in prison or in a refugee camp, then perhaps you should see a therapist."

You're not very good on nuance too, are you? Have you ever watched a horror movie and felt real fear, like shit-in-your-pants fear, even though none of that is real? The mechanism is not that different. This may be news to you but people are not equipped with the necessary software to make this kind of rationalization: "I as a law-abiding white male living in a large metropolitan area in the Northeastern U.S., I have a 0.1% chance of being arrested in my lifetime, so I shall not fear being raped in jail. It won't even cross my mind." Go tell that to people who send chain e-mails on Halloween asking their friends to stay at home because of face-slashing gang initiation attacks are scheduled to happen on that night.

Interestingly, it's the kind of people that hold your opinions that likes to lecture others on empathy. But it never ceases to amaze me how far detached you are from how people really function. But it doesn't matter right? Because the objective is exactly that - creating a "new man" through a cultural manipulation of reality. Keep banging that square peg in the round hole, sister. It's actually amusing to watch.
posted by falameufilho at 9:37 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


The worst part about all this is that the comic's joke doesn't even revolve around the rape aspect, and with a little empathy and foresight, could have been changed to a dozen other things and avoided the whole mess.
posted by crunchland at 9:38 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


ChurchHatesTucker: “Did you seriously just dismiss prison rape?”

No.
posted by koeselitz at 9:42 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, hang on, stats dork here, waving a bullshit flag:

So I get the 1-in-6 number, and that is an absolutely horrifying number which I assume is from RAINN; which lists it here., but it seems to be based on one telephone survey of 8,000 women and 8,000 men? I'm not a statistics major at all, but extrapolating a 16% ratio by roughly using below, what, 0.00003% of the general population doesn't seem to me to be a statistically valid study?

Look. Stop. Rape sucks, cut their dicks off or kill them, misognysigostic culture bad, burn every Hooter's down, etc.

But... you know, if we're going to talk about percentage chances, I think we need a little more than the study RAINN used (Full text here).
posted by cavalier at 9:43 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


One in six women are raped.

Gonna need some attribution. A study. Something. This sounds an awful like an "But everybody KNOWS it's true!" thing.
posted by grubi at 9:43 AM on February 2, 2011


All the people arguing back and forth about if the dickwolves strip is a rape joke or not have clearly missed the fact that in response to the "is the dickwolves strip a rape joke" argument, Penny Arcade made an entire strip that is nothing but a rape joke.
posted by Jairus at 9:43 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's almost like it's ajoke about cluelessness and not about rape!

Kind of like how the comic strip is almost like a joke about the weird "care but don't care" dynamic in MMOs?

Huh.
posted by grubi at 9:44 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jairus, that strip is not what you think it is. People need to really start insisting that the least charitable interpretation possible is the only interpretation possible. Then, maybe, the other side would actually start listening.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:46 AM on February 2, 2011


The worst part about all this is that the comic's joke doesn't even revolve around the rape aspect, and with a little empathy and foresight, could have been changed to a dozen other things and avoided the whole mess.

What horrible fate would you be more comfortable with. And why?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:46 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, we are on to debating rape stats? It's all downhill from here.
posted by smackfu at 9:46 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am a male survivor of rape. I am also a freelance videogames journalist. I first started reading Penny Arcade in 1999. My very first profesionally published article had an interview segment with Gabe from Penny Arcade.

Gabe from Penny Arcade trolled the Shakesville comments section, first by linking (without trigger warnings in a site defined safe space) links to comic with bestiality and pedophilia as part of the joke. He then said "my bad, i din't realize it was bad form to point out hypocrisy". When a fan on twitter pointed out that rape jokes have the potential for triggering severe traumatic responses in survivors, Krahulik replied with "[T]he idea that our cartoon could cause 'significant trauma' is bat shit fucking insane. Two days afterwards they released a comic speaking directly to the viewer that only knocked down strawmen.

3 Months later, Gabe posted a news entry mocking PTSD trigger warnings. The very next news item was announcing the sale of the Dickwolf t-shirts. A little while later, they added PENNANTS.

When I wrote an editorial recapping the Dickwolves controversy and telling how I felt about the ensuing reaction as a survivor, I woke up the next morning to posts saying I was anti freedom of speech, humorless and that I should be raped, again, until I died.

Courtney Stanton is a female survivor of rape and a video games producer. When she blogged about the controvesy and announed a response T-Shirt with the provceeds going the charity, then a week later posted why she was turning down an invitation to speak at PAX and why, she became the receiving end of some awful vivious stuff. Not just the garden variety trolling, but people calling the police in her area, asking for reports of her rape. People harassing her on twitter. Accusing her of lying about her rape. There was a twitter account, Dickwolington, that harassed her directly. Gabe told that account to stop, and it disappeared. There is another account, teamrape that has been retweeting Gabe's tweets and mocking people on twitter that are "anti-dickwolf". Gabe has remained silent.

In the same day he released the "apology", when asked on Twitter whether dickwolf shirts will be allowed at PAX conventions, Gabe's answer was "I'll be wearing mine to PAX."

In fact, Gabe has gone out of his way to be as hurtful as possible. asked on Twitter by @bloodparade “How does it feel to be actively encouraging rape culture, pal?” he reponds with "It feels pretty good. Why?" When asked if he knows what rape culture is, Gabe replied "Of course I know what 'rape culture' is. Saw them live once. New songs, but mostly covers." When a fan on twitter asked Gabe if it meant being a man at PAX this year would be awkward, he replied, "I honestly don't think it will be an issue. Nothing on the Internet last for more than a few days" (ignoring how long the dickwolves have been a controversy). He even dragged his wife into it, by twittering to her in public "Don't you know honey? You're married to a rape apologist! I have a busy day of perpetuating rape culture! I'll be home late."

These reactions from him baffle me, especially when the duo have tackled issues about depression and axiety attacks before. They will not do any jokes about drug abuse because they viscerally disturb him, in what sound much like my own-- thankfully rarely triggered-- panic attacks when it comes to rape triggers.

Tycho and Gabe are more than just some web comic. They have raised nearly 9 million USD for children's hospitals over 8 years. They were listed as part of the 2010 Time Magazine 100 people that "most affect our world". They have been online as a web comic for about 13 years. The PAX convention grew so large, there are now PAX East and PAX west. PAX has a specific ant-harassment policy and no "booth babe" policy. They offer their own $10,000 scholoarhip. Yet they have offered the defense that the comic and the resultant merchandising is not supposed to be influential or taken seriously. Either they can influence their audience, or they can't.

These horrible reactions are coming from tone of the main people behind the PAX convention, torpedoing the claims of wanting it to be an inclusive space with their very actions. They have made me, a video game writer and person who tries to highlight the better parts of video game culture-- a hobby that has led to lots of personal, professional and familial connections and fulfilment-- feel uncomfortable. They have made friends I care about feel unsafe. They have made ME feel unwelcome and unsafe.

The joke may have merely been crass and insensitive, but the reactions from Penny Arcade have been heartbreaking. They may think it's all a big joke, but I'm not laughing. I'm mourning.
posted by ShawnStruck at 9:47 AM on February 2, 2011 [226 favorites]


But it wasn't Benny Hill, it was in The Onion. Even Benny Hill didn't go there.

Au contraire. It was in an episode of Benny Hill. Which is what the Onion was making fun of.

Jesus wept.
posted by grubi at 9:47 AM on February 2, 2011


felix: But out come the Popes and others saying "you are part of rape culture. You are on team rapist." Which to any reasonable ear is drawing false equivalence between these two comic book guys making a joke (which may be careless and insensitive) and forcing themselves brutally on an unwilling victim.

Ignorantly strawmanning the discussion isn't exactly reasonable.

Language matters; and degree matters.

Sure, which is why it's helpful to look up the definition of phrases as they're actually used, such as this one: Rape culture is a term used within women's studies and feminism, describing a culture in which rape and other sexual violence (usually against women) are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence. (emphasis added)

Which is why feminists for much of the last 30 years have fairly consistently used rape culture to describe things like portrayals of James Bond's repeated "seduction" of unwilling women vs. actual rapists which can be called, simply, rapists. Throwing additional adjectives in front of the word culture isn't exactly necessary.

Which BTW, the phrase "team rape" as explicitly explained with a fair degree of nuance started with the marketing of dickwolves as an athletic team, and later adopted by advocates of PA on twitter. But by all means, please cherry pick a single phrase out of the context of a fairly detailed description of the potentially unintentional meaning of wearing a dickwolves athletic shirt in a community notorious for gratuitous rape jokes.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:47 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, we are on to debating rape stats? It's all downhill from here.

Yeah, fuck me for asking for an attribution. Where do I get off? It's not like people toss bullshit statistics around all the time, so I feel a natural impulse to double-check.

No, I must be some sort of asshole for asking someone to back up their assertions.
posted by grubi at 9:50 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


cavalier: If those 16000 people were a representative cross-section of society then that 16% ratio is very well supported indeed. You really need to sample very few people from a large population to get a good idea of the incidence of whatever it is you're looking for.

Given that the figures are from a government survey, you can reasonably expect them to have been performed by a reputable polling company who would have taken reasonable steps to ensure that their population sample was representative of the population as a whole. You'd have to go read the original reports to be sure of course.
posted by pharm at 9:50 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


but it seems to be based on one telephone survey of 8,000 women and 8,000 men? I'm not a statistics major at all, but extrapolating a 16% ratio by roughly using below, what, 0.00003% of the general population doesn't seem to me to be a statistically valid study?

No, that's not correct. Actually 16,000 people would be a huge sample size and more than enough to be statistically valid if everything else was done in a statistically sound fashion. I have no idea if it was, of course. I'm gonna go out on a limb and posit that a telephone survey about rape is not going to be very scientific. But it will not be scientific for reasons other than sample size.
posted by Justinian at 9:51 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or what pharm said, although he has more confidence than I in the methodology being proper.
posted by Justinian at 9:51 AM on February 2, 2011


I'm not a statistics major at all, but extrapolating a 16% ratio by roughly using below, what, 0.00003% of the general population doesn't seem to me to be a statistically valid study?

If the sampling's sound, then it's valid. Statistics is a fascinating thing; tends to more accurate than people think.
posted by grubi at 9:52 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Or what Justinian and pharm said.
posted by grubi at 9:52 AM on February 2, 2011


cavalier: If those 16000 people were a representative cross-section of society then that 16% ratio is very well supported indeed. You really need to sample very few people from a large population to get a good idea of the incidence of whatever it is you're looking for.

Indeed. I seem to recall that for any size population 384 people will get you about 20%.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:52 AM on February 2, 2011


I would think that a phone survey (as opposed to a written survey) would only under-report something as serious and difficult to discuss as rape, but what do I know.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:53 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


ShawnStruck: "When asked if he knows what rape culture is, Gabe replied "Of course I know what 'rape culture' is. Saw them live once. New songs, but mostly covers.""

(I LOL'd)
posted by falameufilho at 9:53 AM on February 2, 2011


What horrible fate would you be more comfortable with. And why? --- The joke is that in MMO's, you're instructed to save x number of whatevers. So you run in, accomplish the task X times. Because it's an MMO, the whatevers respawn so that other players can accomplish the quest. So when you run back to the quest giver, you're likely to run past plenty more whatevers that need rescuing, but you're done with the quest so you don't care. That's the joke. The gratuitous reference to rape could have been changed to "beaten," "starved," "flayed," "tortured," "made to eat rocks," or anything else.
posted by crunchland at 9:54 AM on February 2, 2011


Damn, Shawn, thank you for sharing that. I, too, hope that Gabe can dig himself out of this hole, because, fuck, he has pretty much thrown himself into it. I can see the "I would never do this! This an online facade! ISn't that funny! Ha ha!" bit flying around in his mind, but, fuck, since 01/31 he has completely validated any complaint that has been made about how tone deaf he is about this. Your drugs comment bring up a real valid point, there.
posted by cavalier at 9:54 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is that about right?

I doubt you could be more wrong without the aid of surgery!

Thanks for trying, though!
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:54 AM on February 2, 2011


(I LOL'd)
Okay, dude, I feel ya, but you are totally starting down Gabe territory here. Dial it back a notch.
posted by cavalier at 9:55 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Lots of stats here.

Telling point referenced in those links is how many women in the US report being raped but never telling anyone, so therefore not showing up in the crime stats.

If you're talking worldwide, in cultures that actually force women into marriages, i.e. sexual relationships, against their will, then you would have almost all women technically being victims of rape (or sexual slavery, if you prefer; to the women in question, I doubt it matters). Many of these women of course are actually children when they're sold.

And then there's the situation in the Congo, where whole hospitals have been set up just to treat women who are victims of a systematic campaign of rape and assault, that's been going on for years now.

And then there's the comfort women of Korea, and the women imprisoned and raped during the Balkan conflict in the 90s.

Those are the ones we know about.
posted by emjaybee at 9:56 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


The gratuitous reference to rape could have been changed to "beaten," "starved," "flayed," "tortured," "made to eat rocks," or anything else.

And presumably you're OK with those.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:57 AM on February 2, 2011


Thatnks for that backgrounder ShawnStruck, I was having a hard time understanding who said what to whom here.
posted by jessamyn at 9:58 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


explosion, I hear you, and it wasn't an easy decision to make. I loved PAX East last year and I'm sure it will be awesome again. I don't think it's for me anymore, though.

In your post, you said: "PAX and the gaming community at large need people who care to stick around and attempt to address issues, rather than shedding mature people who've 'outgrown' or 'feel ashamed' of gaming culture."

I don't see this as the gaming community shedding mature people; I see this as about the gaming community shedding puerile people. PAX no longer feels like my community, and I can help make it so by not attending. The founders preach inclusiveness but would rather invalidate, ridicule, or antagonize people than follow the edict they themselves helped popularize.

I would encourage you to read some of the other recent entries on Courtney's blog (that's kirbybits, the second "offended" link in the original post), and look at the comments. If you're up for it, try going back a few days in her Twitter (also @kirbybits) and check out the "I hope you get raped to death" comments she posts and retweets. These are not people interested in a discussion, nuanced or otherwise, and they are not people who I want to share a weekend (or community, or culture) with.

Like I said, it was a hard decision to make, but I personally feel that it's better than the alternative. I would not enjoy my time as PAX feeling the way I do about it. (Besides, I'm lucky to be in a position where I can make it -- I know of others who would like to speak out or not attend, but feel like they can't for professional reasons.)

One of the many people whose thoughts resonated with me was Leigh Alexander (of Gamasutra, Kotaku, etc.):
I love Penny Arcade. But what have we got to lose by having some respect for people's feelings in our community when they speak up and ask us to hear them? I don't want to be part of a community where people say "hey, we're really hurt," and we say, "shut up, bitches."
posted by danb at 9:58 AM on February 2, 2011 [20 favorites]


If 1 out of 6 women in the US had been literally flayed, tortured, or made to eat rocks, then I think we would be less jokey about those topics.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:59 AM on February 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


I also initially thought the controversy was going to be about slavery and not rape.
I have no intention of making light of rape, but at what point does this end?

This is a parody of the arbitrary and strange fantasy mechanics of a video game. This is a joke about the reduction of heroism, saving the enslaved etc, reduced to an unfeeling abstract quota in a video game.

Furthermore, this is an ironic comic about a video game. The fantasy is already twice removed. One of the characters is a talking anthropomorphic dog. The perpetrators of this hypothetical rape are called "dickwolves". I'm guessing that there is no MMO which features a raping enemy called a dickwolf. So this means that by creating these over-the-top hypothetical monsters to further show the exaggeratedly horrible conditions of a fantasy slave, the creators of said comic are, in our world, normalizing sexual violence?

The primary action in most videogames, especially in MMORPGS, is killing. Does this perpetuate a culture of violence? A culture of thievery where we must kill and take what we want from the dead? A culture of callous people lacking any empathy who kill and steal from the world around them, in an endless reward cycle of progress into strength charted with arbitrary numbers?

Our world, and our shared history, as well as our social mores on this side of a computer screen are much more culpable for perpetuating culture which reduces, denigrates, and blames victims of violence, sexual or otherwise.

Granted, the reaction from the creators of this webcomic to the initial protests were ill-chosen and strange. But then again it is an internet comic about video games.
posted by Enigmark at 9:59 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay, I am totally schooled, statistically speaking. And am back to feeling horrified. So, thanks!
posted by cavalier at 9:59 AM on February 2, 2011


Kind of like how the comic strip is almost like a joke about the weird "care but don't care" dynamic in MMOs?

do I seriously have to ONCE A FUCKING GAIN post about how there's multiplejokes in the strip because goddamn people oyu have to start reading the parts of the thread that don't have shiny things in them
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:59 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


And presumably you're OK with those. --- I realize you're just being argumentative, but I would contend that had the comic strip said any of those other things, we wouldn't even be discussing the point. It's not about what I'm ok with. It's about what people would and wouldn't have reacted to.
posted by crunchland at 10:00 AM on February 2, 2011


One of the many people whose thoughts resonated with me was Leigh Alexander (of Gamasutra, Kotaku, etc.):
I love Penny Arcade. But what have we got to lose by having some respect for people's feelings in our community when they speak up and ask us to hear them? I don't want to be part of a community where people say "hey, we're really hurt," and we say, "shut up, bitches."


Yeah, I mean focusing on the original comic kind of misses the point of what is ultimately a customer service and a public relations problem.

Penny Arcade is a big enterprise at this point, with a lot to lose and a reputation to protect. They should probably be more careful about how they respond to things like this. The comic is really not the problem, their response to the criticism of the comic was stupid, juvenile and needlessly provocative.
posted by empath at 10:01 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Regardless of how you feel about the issues themselves, I think one thing is clear: Mike and Jerry have acted like immature assholes. And continue to do so.

By acting like immature assholes they have alienated a pretty big chunk of their core audience (including myself). While simultaneously playing to another chunk of their core audience, who could perhaps best be described as "other immature assholes."

Yay, it's the immature asshole brigade. AGAIN.

It's a pity, too, because Mike and Jerry are decent people on the whole. Look at all the good they have done with Child's Play. Look at their female-positive PAX policies. Look at many of their earlier comics, which have already been cited in this thread.

I certainly do not conflate them with rapists. I think they are simply unaware of how enthusiastically "into" rape culture a lot of their fans are. Which is to say, people take this shit seriously. Just look at what their fans have done to the women who have tried to speak out against this issue.

But if anyone wants my Penny Arcade books, which I bought over the years because I wanted to show my support, I don't want them anymore. Now when I look at them on my shelf, I feel sad.

grubl and cavalier and others who question the 1/6 statistic, I believe it's sourced from a US Department of Justice report titled Criminal Victimization in the United States.

To clarify, 1 in 6 women have experienced sexual assault or an attempted sexual assault. This would include date rape, as well as those people who were sexually assaulted when they were children.
posted by ErikaB at 10:01 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


I came here looking for a mountain, but all I got was this lousy molehill.
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:01 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


To accuse someone of "perpetuating rape culture" is a pretty intense charge to make. I was accused of "apologizing for racism" in a thread the other day when I certainly was NOT and let me tell you, it feels pretty fucking terrible and it's pretty difficult to not get extremely defensive. Meanwhile, a few other posters really beautifully articulated why I was wrong and you know what? They had a great point. I thought about what they said - and I was out of line.

This screamy, fighty, finger-pointing attitude that springs up when some unenlightened fool makes a joke that's out of line - because they don't understand the concept of privilege, or they haven't yet learned about the power constructs surrounding gender - it needs to stop. It's poisonous and it doesn't work. The PA guys truly think they made a shocking [if not tasteless] joke and nothing else, so if people lash out at them, they're going to lash back.

I used to be one of those douchebags before I went to college and took a handful of womens studies classes, and started reading more. I certainly didn't learn about it from people calling me a misogynist asshole, my response would have been all "fuck you, feminazi you don't even know what you're talking about! I respect women!"

I guess what I'm saying is that there must be some other way to do this.
posted by windbox at 10:03 AM on February 2, 2011 [23 favorites]


If 1 out of 6 women in the US had been literally ... made to eat rocks

Salt is a rock.
posted by Ardiril at 10:03 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, seriously: thank you, ShawnStruck, for being so open and powerfully honest. It can't be easy. And you have my respect and admiration for being willing to dive into this and speak your mind from the beginning. Thanks for your perspective.
posted by koeselitz at 10:03 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


do I seriously have to ONCE A FUCKING GAIN post about how there's multiplejokes in the strip because goddamn people oyu have to start reading the parts of the thread that don't have shiny things in them

On the one hand, there are multiple jokes in Fünke's cluelessness. I think your original critique does apply to the AD joke.

On the other hand, Fünke is not a rapist and has no intention of ever being one. The joke comes from the fact that he has cluelessly implied that he is one. In that sense, it's not "really" a rape joke, because no one is ever getting raped by Tobias.

On the other, other hand, the last episode of AD that I re-watched contained a clear cut example of rape by deception. So...something.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:05 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most places? That's pretty much what happened here. I agree with you that usually Metafilter is better at this kind of thing. But not today.

Anyway, I'm glad Pope Guilty and muddgirl (and a few others) are around. At least there's that.
posted by koeselitz at 12:00 PM on February 2 [2 favorites +] [!]


WTF, dude? That's pretty passive-aggressive right there. Newsflash: MeFi "not doing something well" isn't about other people having the unmitigated gall to disagree with the One Correct Opinion -- it's about squashing discussion. Like it or not, no matter how you feel about this particular topic, a matter was/is being discussed. I'd say self-congratulatory jabs at the plebes who just don't "get it" are kinda what bring a thread down. I mean, it's not like you could have MeMailed P.G. and muddgirl thanks for the solidarity in private, right?
posted by Amanojaku at 10:05 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Salt is a rock.

You don't actually have to comment in this thread, you know. You can just go do something else. That's allowed.
posted by cortex at 10:05 AM on February 2, 2011 [32 favorites]


The gratuitous reference to rape could have been changed to "beaten," "starved," "flayed," "tortured," "made to eat rocks," or anything else.

"And presumably you're OK with those."


First, beatings, flayings, and torture are a part of World of Warcraft. Starvation is implicitly a part of it (burned-out farms crop up in various parts of the world). So references to those things are consistent with the context of the strip, and thus the joke ("WoW encourages players to do absurd things, if you think about it") still works. And it does so without importing a terrible part of gamer culture into the context of WoW.

Second, gamer culture does not have a problem with gamers beating, starving, flaying, torturing, or force-feeding people rocks in the real world. Gamer culture does have a problem with misogyny and simulated sexual violence. And the fallout from this comic strip has shown that many gamers are perfectly happy to say things like "you deserved to get raped" and "I hope you get raped again" to rape victims.
posted by jedicus at 10:06 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


how there's multiplejokes in the strip

Because you said there were?

Look, I get it: you disapprove. But you're starting to throw fits at me because I'm not buying the SUPERINTERCONENCTEDNESS OF EVERYTHING idea you have where you cannot joke about unpleasant things because a person could get upset by that. I'm not saying the joke was particularly awesome, or that the guys were right for any of their actions. I'm being strictly academic about this but you're getting... well.. a little less than that.

Ease up. Let's just fucking talk.
posted by grubi at 10:08 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


[we do not do the "I am ironically hollering about this topic as if I were the sort of person I'm not" thing if we want other people to discuss things in good faith - seriously, if you need a walk, take a walk.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:09 AM on February 2, 2011


To accuse someone of "perpetuating rape culture" is a pretty intense charge to make.

I think that might be the core problem here. While it's hard not to take a charge like this personally it really shouldn't be because rape culture is so common. We all perpetuate rape culture to some degree, so to be called out for it shouldn't put someone so far on the defensive. Still, if I was singled out for "perpetuating rape culture" I would probably react defensively even though I'm sure I do.
posted by ODiV at 10:09 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Kind of like how the comic strip is almost like a joke about the weird "care but don't care" dynamic in MMOs?

do I seriously have to ONCE A FUCKING GAIN post about how there's multiplejokes in the strip because goddamn people oyu have to start reading the parts of the thread that don't have shiny things in them


They read those parts, they just disagree with you.
posted by the other side at 10:09 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


And you know what. Every methodology has flaws. Is 1/6 an exact number? Probably not. But it's likely in the same ballpark.

empath: Yeah, I mean focusing on the original comic kind of misses the point of what is ultimately a customer service and a public relations problem.

Exactly. This conflict has legs partly because the PA people apparently can't leave well enough alone.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:09 AM on February 2, 2011


Here is what my response would have been:

"We're not going to apologize for the comic. We were not making light of rape. We think rape is bad. The joke depends on a mutual understanding that rape is bad between us and our readers.

We are sorry that any readers were offended or were hurt by the joke, but being sometimes being offensive is part of what we do. If that means you don't want to read the comic any more, that's okay, we understand.

That said, a lot of our critics have interesting and important things to say about rape and misogyny in gamer culture, and we've learned a lot by reading it, and we encourage our readers to engage in dialogue with them with respect. The things they are talking about are real. They are not exaggerating. Maybe we could all learn something and be better people from this controversy."
posted by empath at 10:09 AM on February 2, 2011 [17 favorites]


So because if Kobe Bryant was successfully convicted of rape charges does that mean that I can no longer wear a LA Lakers cap?
posted by PenDevil at 10:10 AM on February 2, 2011


And the fallout from this comic strip has shown that many gamers are perfectly happy to say things like "you deserved to get raped" and "I hope you get raped again" to rape victims.

This may come as a shock to you: there are lots of assholes out there, many of them become even bigger assholes on the Internet.
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:10 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Was Kobe Bryant invented by a comic artist solely as a representation of a rapist?
posted by stavrogin at 10:13 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also want to take a second to publicly commend ShawnStruck for identifying himself as a male survivor of rape up-thread.

Rape is not solely a female issue. In fact an estimated 1 in 10 rape victims is male. But to say this is a form of assault which is grievously under-reported is to understate the case immensely.

Our society heaps shame upon rape survivors, both male and female. By doing so it silences them, which allows the crime to go unchecked.
posted by ErikaB at 10:13 AM on February 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


The comic is really not the problem, their response to the criticism of the comic was stupid, juvenile and needlessly provocative.

Well said, empath.
posted by danb at 10:14 AM on February 2, 2011


No way out at this point unless it's an over the top apology (which I personally don't think gets you anywhere) or people stop being as ungenerous as possible in their understanding and viewpoints, in both directions.
posted by iamabot at 10:16 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some people have way too much time on their hands. Instead of trying to make a huge issue out of a comic, why don't these people go donate their time to something that will actually affect rape victims in real life? Proselytizing online just angers people and starts flame wars.

I have lurked here for about 5 years before joining. My response to this debate 5 years ago would have been very different then it is now. These discussions may seem old hat to some people, but there are many others being introduced to these issues for the first time.

I think talking these issues out gets to count as "doing something", because it can change the attitudes of reasonable people who just haven't been exposed to the many reasons rape really isn't funny.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 10:16 AM on February 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


This may come as a shock to you: there are lots of assholes out there, many of them become even bigger assholes on the Internet.

It's not a shock to me at all. My point was that this debacle has produced fairly incontrovertible evidence of gamer culture's problems with attitudes towards sexual violence and evidence that those problems manifest themselves in the real world. Thus, one can't say to critics of the strip that gamer culture doesn't have such problems. The reaction to the criticism has fairly well proven the critics' point.
posted by jedicus at 10:16 AM on February 2, 2011


ShawnStruck: yeah, that does sound like some bad assholish behavior coming from the PA guys.

To make sure this has been perfectly clear, pretty much all of my comments in this thread have been referring solely to the initial comic and, obliquely and to a much smaller extent, to the t-shirt. I only know about the other stuff like Twitter crap from this thread and the links in the OP.

It's quite possible for the initial comic to have been funny, on-point, and a biting critique of MMORPGs and for the PA guys to have been assholes on Twitter or whatever, and if what people like ShawnStruck have said is accurate that appears to have been the case. Personally, I can separate art or media I like from the person who created it. If I couldn't I sure wouldn't be able to read half of the books I do. But I recognize that some people can't do that to the same extent and there's nothing wrong with that.

I hope the PA guys back off the apparent Twitter crap but continue the comic in exactly the same way they always have. But if Gabe or Tycho continue with the Twittery badness, well, I'll probably just continue to read the comic like I do now in complete ignorance about any outside the strip behavior. If other people don't, that's cool too. I don't think any of this is reflected in the actual comic, though,
posted by Justinian at 10:16 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


"curbstomped by hobbits"

Well-done.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:17 AM on February 2, 2011


I was a regular PA reader (and side-project video watcher and general fan of the guys) at the time the original strip came out. I thought the Line Heard Round the World was a hell of a turn of phrase, and appreciated it in a morally neutral art way, but I knew they were about to get some knowledge dropped on them for it. That is to say, I was quite familiar with their style of humor and still that joke stood out to me from the others. I figured they'd get a few emails, they might reply but the rest of us would never know about them, and in two days there'd be another strip and life would go on. It was only when I saw how wrong I was that I was disturbed by any of it.

To my surprise, the next strip was a 4th wall-breaking PSA that they had received complaints and not seen merit in any of them, so the issue ought to be closed. It wasn't, of course, and their dealings with those on whom their magic didn't work turned me off of them altogether. A week or two later I thought back on it and chastised myself for writing someone off forever because they had a stormy Internet debate on their record. These things don't always go smoothly. Why dwell on it and drag it out? I clicked over to check in. The newspost was back to normal and actually about games. The comic was some light hilarity about a dude on the phone with customer service or something. His t-shirt said 'dickwolves.'

That's when I knew it wasn't just the confusion and emotion of the moment to blame. I'd been disappointed in them for hearing such personal, intense, moving testimony from the objectors and not caring, but 'not caring' didn't cover this kind of long-term aggression. They wanted to utterly drive out the critics from their fanbase, and they weren't going to rest until there were no more suggestions, anywhere, that the critics might have had a point. I shouldn't be as surprised as I am that they still haven't rested.

What it comes down to with me is the unfailing sameness of Penny Arcade's response, no matter what is said to them. It's as if there was no discussion at all, and that's what stings me. That infuriating, unyielding 'why-are-there-still-monkeys' satisfaction with the way they see things, and hey, look at how much trouble those other people have with simple things like this. They've had so much offered to them to explain what everyone's problem with them is, and all that ever comes back is "It was a joke. It's funny because I say it is." They haven't shown any signs of grasping that this perspective, though common, is simplistic and inadequate to actually understand the dynamics of what everyone else is talking about. It's the Reverse Truman Show - the failure to see that the rest of the world IS real, not a flat backdrop. You can walk into it and everything. The parts that seem fake and wrong and hard to take seriously can and should be explored and added to what you think 'counts.'

Not gonna preview because I'm too tired of poking at my phone to change anything anyway: *post comment*
posted by jinjo at 10:17 AM on February 2, 2011 [29 favorites]


cavalier: " I'm not a statistics major at all, but extrapolating a 16% ratio by roughly using below, what, 0.00003% of the general population doesn't seem to me to be a statistically valid study?"

Well, (σ/ √n) says that with a population of the US -- approx. 307 million -- with a 99% confidence level and a 2% margin of error, you'd need a sample size of 4160. You might be able to prove -- if given access to the data -- that their sample was biased in some factor, but the sample needed for a lot of statistical data is very, very small. Stats are an interesting field, and you don't even need to major in them to start seeing their patterns reinforced in daily living.

For my own thoughts on the subject: I can't really support PA on this on any level. You might (and people have) provided a defense of the topic's role in the telling of the joke. I don't agree with the defense, but I can understand the desire to defend a brand based on past experiences.

Weirder for me is the response from the company and putting out merchandising based on it. Maybe Penny Arcade is just used to "trending topic == we have to put a shirt out" but it's a bad decision, and their followup responses haven't been satisfying.

More generally still, I don't tolerate any rape/gay/ etc jokes on the game servers that I administer for MFC. You get a warning when you sign in at the login screen, you might get one for first offense depending on which moderators are on (charity), and that's it. You're gone after that.
posted by boo_radley at 10:18 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gonna need some attribution. A study. Something.

Of course, we will then find a fault or issue with all stats, or suggest that the methodology was flawed, or suggest the definition of rape was too broad, or suggest that the people polled were lying or manipulated, or or or or or or or.

You can't deny the prevalence of rape in our culture. I personally know dozens of women who have been raped. You do, too. They aren't talking about it and quite possibly are specifically not talking about it to you because of the overall doubt, disbelief or dismissal of rape victim's experiences. Every single high-profile man who rapes someone is immediately defended, the victim immediately called a liar. When rape victims come forward they are put through HELL and back just to seek justice, being extensively questioned, prodded, blamed and treated like criminals. Men who are raped don't talk about it. Many people who are raped live in active denial about it. People who are raped as children often live in denial about it/don't remember (yes I know about the BS 'false memory' shit that went down, no, that does not invalidate this fact). Additionally, nearly no money is spent on investigating rape, prosecuting rapists, or gathering statistics and information on rape. Rape victims are often told they are "lucky they weren't hurt" - they are told this even by the police officers who are investigating their case or the doctor in the emergency room where they are being examined. Victims believe it is their fault or can't go through the trauma of reporting. Victims are told they will only make trouble for themselves by going to the authorities.

So even if you manage to find numbers that make rape seem less common than 1 out of 6, even if you feel every set of statistics is off, remember that rape is vastly UNDER-reported.

So while you can dismiss the data, or the importance of this issue, or the exact meaning/phrasing of the joke, or the intent of the dudes at PA, or the intentions of the people calling this issue out, you cannot deny that this is a real and serious issue perpetrated mostly by men, mostly to women. That we live in a culture that supports this behavior and that some people are willing to stand up against it, even if it's just a comic, even if the guys are nice, even if they didn't mean it, even if it's just a joke, even if technically it's not about rape because what they really meant was this other thing, even if. Dismissing this issue is actually dismissing rape victims. Because if you don't want to hear it, and you don't want the people who care about it to talk about it, and you don't think it matters, and you don't think anyone should talk about it? Then I'm sorry, you're part of the fucking problem.
posted by SassHat at 10:18 AM on February 2, 2011 [35 favorites]


Amanojaku: “WTF, dude? That's pretty passive-aggressive right there. Newsflash: MeFi "not doing something well" isn't about other people having the unmitigated gall to disagree with the One Correct Opinion -- it's about squashing discussion. Like it or not, no matter how you feel about this particular topic, a matter was/is being discussed. I'd say self-congratulatory jabs at the plebes who just don't "get it" are kinda what bring a thread down. I mean, it's not like you could have MeMailed P.G. and muddgirl thanks for the solidarity in private, right?”

I said in the thing you quoted that my problem was that people are doing here what kmz said they would do on other sites: kvetching about people being too easily offended. That was, in a nutshell, the first twenty comments of this thread. You can say that's relatively civil, and sure it is, but it's still not a good thing. I mean, how long have we wasted our time here having to prove all over again that rape is common, just to name an example? I thought MeFites were informed enough to know these things.

I see that it's passive-aggressive, and I'm sorry for that. I was sad when I read the first few comments here, and I made a comment right away to that effect (which was rightly deleted.) I guess I'm just giving my reaction. But this is how I feel. I've tried above to articulate that a little better. I hope that helps.
posted by koeselitz at 10:19 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


and very genuinely, this makes me think of null terminated and how it might be possible to reconcile his experience with any potential humor involving rape, however tangentially.
posted by boo_radley at 10:21 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


KirkJobSluder: "And you know what. Every methodology has flaws. Is 1/6 an exact number? Probably not. But it's likely in the same ballpark. "

It's likely far more common than that. Rape is an extremely unreported crime. "The FBI estimates that only 37% of all rapes are reported to the police. U.S. Justice Department statistics are even lower, with only 26% of all rapes or attempted rapes being reported to law enforcement officials." And that's just in the US.

There are a number of reasons for this, including diminished expectations by the victims that they will be treated favorably (as opposed to being dismissed, mocked or shamed) when they report what has happened to family, friends, police and/or medical personnel. Those who seek medical care for serious injuries and/or tests for venereal disease are also more likely to report what has been done to them.
posted by zarq at 10:23 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The punchline would've been just as funny (which is to say, somewhat) if the slavers were zombies or mindflayers or cattle or huge wedges of cheese. The punchline holds its own. So why even make a reference to rape at all unless the rape is a joke, too?

Because not everyone thinks that a rape reference as an example of a horrible thing done to others is beyond the pale and should always be replaced with a reference to non-sexual violence?

I don't find anything done by the PA crew post-comic to be acceptable. It's been shitty from the get-go and I won't defend it.

But the comic's use of prisoner rape as an example of horrific mistreatment? I just don't see that as unreasonable, in no small part because it's not unrealistic.

The whole point of this comic was the insane moral choices presented to (or forced upon) players. The detail of "dickwolves" as a gonzo game creature of specialized torture strikes me as pretty spot-on portrayal of the kind of creation you see in games and fiction. Freddy Kruger's knife-glove, Ash's shotgun hand.

The movie SE7EN had a horrific sex-torture contraption. Was that, as a sign of depravity and horror, also unacceptable? Is it acceptable because it was without humor?

Norm comments above Speaking only for myself, I think a lot of people in this thread are putting all their attention on the comic strip because it's actually remotely defensible. Speaking only for myself, I'd say it's because it's the only area that's actually interesting. The PA crew's subsequent reaction is shitty on a multitude of levels, period, so what's to discuss? They were and are wrong. There might be some small bit of interesting to someone in how much was caused by Mike's anxiety disorder and the stunted emotional growth it played a part in, but not to me.

What I think is interesting and worthy of discussion is what to me looks like a position that there's no place for inclusion of the fact of rape in non-serious media. It certainly seems that Pope Guilty believes this, and in some ways the fact of his belief is proof and support for his position: he repeatedly insists that the rape it itself meant to be the joke - that the fact that this person is being raped is supposed to be haha-that's-funny.

To me that's an unanswerable assertion - what the joke is meant to be is only in the minds of the creators. So if we fall back on what we can know, the fact that some people found it funny, I'm not going to argue that - it's a certainty. HURF DURF DON'T DROP THE SOAP jokes about prison rape prove there are jackholes who do indeed find humor in the suffering of others.

I'm just not sure I think that's a reason to cross it off the "ever acceptable" list for inclusion in humor. That some percentage of people looked at the PA strip and thought "haha rape" doesn't trouble me on the scale of, say, what I think of as "taking it in the nuts humor." There seems to be to be a very defensible assertion that the PA strip was attempting to say RAPE=BAD but some people will interpret it as the joke itself. On the other hand we have a huge quantity of humor in our cultures that's unequivocally meant to be "this person got hurt and that's funny."

I don't point that out to say we cannot address issue X as long as issue Y exists; I mention it because it makes me question why we should be willing to jettison one particular topic within the realm of comedy when we're willing to accept other non-sexual suffering.

So to return to the quote I opened with - if the "punchline would've been just as funny" if the prisoner was instead going to be waterboarded.... why? Why is it okay that THAT is funny? Because it's not a form of torture that 1 in 6 women will experience? Because it's invasive and horrible in a non-sexual way? Because a percentage of the population doesn't make HURF DURF DON'T GET RENDITIONED the way they make their soap-dropping jokes?

Assuming you can make that assertion. I'm not sure you can. It seems like every form of physical suffering gets a laugh from certain classes of jerkbag. Or you have the gallows humor others have defended. If the problem is that "someone will think it itself is funny" I don't know that anything is fair game. The only thing you can fall back on then is things like mindflaying or other fictional suffering.

If that's your position, that these games or humor or everything in entertainment should always avoid any representations of suffering that reflect the suffering that happens in the real world, okay, you're entitled. But if that's not then I'm not sure I understand why we're comfortable with drawing a line at sexual violence for portrayal but not at other ways people are horrific to each other.
posted by phearlez at 10:23 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm amazed anyone can read ShawnStruck's recap and still think that PA's behavior over the whole thing has been defensible. Whatever you think of the original strip, everything they've done since then has been pretty awful, as well as inexplicable. They want to create a safe, inclusive space except for rape victims? I don't get it.
posted by kavasa at 10:23 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hey, remember when we used to be mad at Ctrl-Alt-Delete ? Good times, man, good times.
posted by NoraReed at 10:25 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would think that a phone survey (as opposed to a written survey) would only under-report something as serious and difficult to discuss as rape, but what do I know.

I'm not sure, I think you could make a pretty good argument either way. But you're correct, a telephone survey might well underreport rape rather than overreport it. I don't think there was anything in my comment to imply otherwise, only a general skepticism about phone surveys. But this is kind of orthogonal to the point which is that a whole lot of people have suffered sexual abuse and that 16,000 people is plenty big enough for a sample.

To clarify, 1 in 6 women have experienced sexual assault or an attempted sexual assault. This would include date rape, as well as those people who were sexually assaulted when they were children.

Having just now (re)read the survey, it doesn't just include those who were sexually assaulted when children, such people make up the majority of victims. A majority of victims are under 17 years old and the survey makes a point of shining a light on this fact, going so far as to say "the survey found that rape is a crime committed
primarily against youth".
posted by Justinian at 10:28 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Zarq, the 1-in-6 number does not represent sexual assaults reported - it represents private answers to a survey.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:28 AM on February 2, 2011


Sticherbeast: "Zarq, the 1-in-6 number does not represent sexual assaults reported - it represents private answers to a survey."

Ah. I read it too quickly then.
posted by zarq at 10:29 AM on February 2, 2011


thank you, ShawnStruck.
posted by qnarf at 10:30 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I realize you're just being argumentative, but I would contend that had the comic strip said any of those other things, we wouldn't even be discussing the point. It's not about what I'm ok with. It's about what people would and wouldn't have reacted to.

I am NOT being argumentative! In fact, I'm offended by the suggestion.

People react to things. It doesn't make them right.

The whole 'rape culture' thing was a douchey charge to make in the first place. The entire point of the strip is that rape is a horrible thing (up there with flaying, FWIW) and that the 'hero' isn't actually being heroic by stopping when he met his quota of people to save. But because the horrible fate he was leaving the sixth slave to was rape, they're perpetuating rape culture? No fucking way.

But now they're accused of being rape supporters, and they start to dig in their heels and say 'fuck you too' in various ways. Their fans see them as under attack from some seriously humor-impaired people and start lashing back. Ultimately leading to a t-shirt featuring the raping rapists. Not a savvy move, but probably predictable.

This is why you need to be careful about bandying about pernicious terms. Used carelessly, you'll create enemies.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:30 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


The funny thing is when I first found myself in a MMORPG with a bunch of people who seemed to be exclusively immature male louts, I was heartened when they started throwing the word rape around. When one of the player's characters was killed and plundered and his little homestead deliberately griefed and the player himself subjected to a lot of ridicule from his attackers he referred to this as being raped. It seemed to me that in the apparently all male MMORPG culture the word rape was being used in this context because it was stronger than saying "killed", "stomped", "murdered" "pwned" or "annihilated". This means to that they were more sensitive to the concept of rape rather than less. Rape was used to describe actions way more dickish than simply winning a contest. It was used to describe the most dickish behavior electronically possible, behavior that was only limited because of the electronics.

But it also seems to me that there are a number of people - almost exclusively female, but not entirely, some of whom are rape survivors but many of whom are not, who are instinctively aversive to the concept of rape so that just the word in a context far removed from immediate danger to them or to anyone near them still rings every alarm bell in their psyche.

Between these two extremes, the not-entirely clueless male who can identify with being a rape victim, and the individual who has strong aversive emotions triggered by any reference to rape, fall a great number of other reactions and interpretations to that joke in Penny Arcade. The wrong person reads that joke and they will take it to mean that "Heheh, s'funny when somebody gets raped!" or "It's funny when a GUY gets raped, but not someone female!" "Oooh, that's a hot scenario, I'm gonna picture myself being a slave in my next scenario!" or "Ick! Rape has no place in a game! That completely ruins a quest!" Or "Hmm... I could make up a table of number of attackers, sex acts forced and amount of trauma resulting, modified by a save against... should it be charisma or constitution?" or the person whose mind escapes back to that horrible experience that keeps flashing back and once again they are shaking and shaking and its hard to breathe...

Well, my take on this is that the thing to do is not to try too hard to be politically correct as it stifles the creativity, but to try extremely hard to be kind. Regrettably the sequel to the comic seems to be someone who got offensive instead. I have no doubt that they felt attacked and believed they were being counter-offensive. The gaming world seems to have more than its fair share of people who are determined to win whether or not they are in a competitive context.

I figure that some of the not-politically correct responses to the whole uproar have been from people who do NOT think rape is a good hobby, but do feel like by not gasping in anger and outrage that they have been painted as being wanna-be-rapists. Also, rape being part of our biology and giving an advantage in number of progeny, some of the people involved in the conversation are, on some level, pro-rape, whether or not they know it.

You're not going to find a common ground here. Both sides are working with emotion or culture creating biased perceptions. One thing I noted is that a lot of people in this thread were quoting the comic as talking about slaves being "raped to death". I remember the quote as being "raped to sleep every night". Is a reference in a joke about being raped to death worse than one about being raped to sleep? In the first case its a type of nasty murder as a joke. In the second it trivializes rape.... Similarly wasn't the T-shirt about rape survivors not a rape squad? Does wearing a t-shirt describing yourself as a rape survivor mean you are expressing solidarity with rape victims or denigrating them?

The topic is so loaded that the perceptions are getting altered by the emotions involved. And I don't mean that only the rape-fearful or rape-offended people are seeing through a distorted lens, I mean all of us. Who is being unrealistic and who has a position to defend? Everyone involved.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:30 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


koeselitz: The thing is, in a userbase of any significant size you're always going to get some idiots saying dumb one-liners at inappropriate times. It's inevitable. You can't let that color your perception of the discussion as a whole or you'll never be anything but disappointed. You've just gotta filter it out as noise, like the people who post nothing but "This."
posted by Justinian at 10:31 AM on February 2, 2011


Hey, wait, is this discussion becoming civil and reasonable? WTF METAFILTER
posted by grubi at 10:33 AM on February 2, 2011


Rape statistics, according to the FBI, for reported cases in 2005:

The rate of forcible rapes in 2005 was estimated at 62.5 offenses per 100,000 female inhabitants, a 2.0 percent decrease when compared to the 2004 estimate of 63.8 forcible rapes per 100,000 female inhabitants.

Based on rape offenses actually reported to the UCR Program in 2005, rapes by force comprised 91.8 percent of reported rape offenses, and assaults to rape attempts accounted for 8.2 percent of reported rape offenses. This equated to 48.4 rapes by force per 100,000 female inhabitants and 4.3 assaults to rape attempts per 100,000 females in 2005.
via

Not all rape cases are reported, of course.
posted by misha at 10:34 AM on February 2, 2011


So because if Kobe Bryant was successfully convicted of rape charges does that mean that I can no longer wear a LA Lakers cap?

I would seriously reconsider the wisdom of wearing his jersey.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:35 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


The entire point of the strip is that rape is a horrible thing (up there with flaying, FWIW) and that the 'hero' isn't actually being heroic by stopping when he met his quota of people to save. But because the horrible fate he was leaving the sixth slave to was rape, they're perpetuating rape culture? No fucking way.

But rape isn't actually a part of Warcraft, whereas flaying is. There are enslaved NPCs that are beaten but none that are raped. The PA authors introduced rape into the context of Warcraft. Gamer culture has a big problem with its attitude towards sexual violence, including introducing sexual violence into games where it is not present (e.g. teabagging in FPS games). That is how the strip perpetuates gamer culture's unfortunate attitude towards sexual violence.
posted by jedicus at 10:35 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


And, let's be clear, that was for one year only. It's very hard to estimate a woman's individual odds over her lifetime, or a man's either, of being a rape victim.
posted by misha at 10:35 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, here in NY, where there's a big "well, now that the Jets are out, who do I root for?" meme, I've been hearing a number of people referring to Steelers as the rape team (go Packers).
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:36 AM on February 2, 2011


Similarly wasn't the T-shirt about rape survivors not a rape squad?

No, it was not. I suspect you're thinking of this shirt, which is a parody of what PA created. The original shirt, if I remember correctly, looked more like a sports jersey and said something like "Team Dickwolves."
posted by danb at 10:36 AM on February 2, 2011


explosion, this:

Within the context of the strip alone, the humor is not to be found from the rape, but the callous indifference of the PC. That you're representing otherwise makes me question whether you're willing to have an honest conversation about this at all.


is refuted by all the people saying stuff like this:

...Because "Dickwolves" is a hilarious word...

..."Being raped to sleep by dickwolves" is an attempt to both be inherently funny (imagining 'dickwolves' is mildly amusing)...

posted by straight at 10:37 AM on February 2, 2011


FWIW, here in NY, where there's a big "well, now that the Jets are out, who do I root for?" meme, I've been hearing a number of people referring to Steelers as the rape team (go Packers).

Unfortunately, it's not that easy.
posted by COBRA! at 10:40 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Similarly wasn't the T-shirt about rape survivors not a rape squad? Does wearing a t-shirt describing yourself as a rape survivor mean you are expressing solidarity with rape victims or denigrating them?

The survivor tshirt was made by a rape survivor and critic of Penny Arcade.

The tshirt that Penny Arcade made was of a Dickwolf that looked like it was the mascot of a sports team.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:41 AM on February 2, 2011


But rape isn't actually a part of Warcraft, whereas flaying is.

Seriously? That's fucked up.

But yeah, that's all the more reason to use rape instead of flaying. If it's something actually in the game, it's not as humorous as something that's hyperbolic.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:45 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


By the way, I'd encourage anyone interested in the subject to read the study being referenced above which can be found here. Despite my skepticism about using phone surveys for something as difficult as sexual assault (which I have not lost), it is probably the best analysis of its kind I've read in quite a while. At this point I'd probably accept these figures as those most likely to be reasonably accurate. The methodology seems pretty decent so long as there is nothing fundamentally problematic about a phone survey.

The most shocking to me? The figures for women as a whole are about 1/6. The figure for Native American women are above 1/3.
posted by Justinian at 10:46 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rape was used to describe actions way more dickish than simply winning a contest. It was used to describe the most dickish behavior electronically possible, behavior that was only limited because of the electronics.

I've never heard it/seen it used that way. Has anyone else? I usually see it as synonymous with "pwn".
posted by NoraReed at 10:49 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem is that Penny Arcade's audience are exactly the sort of people to get offended by this kind of joke. Stand-up comedians get away with raunchy shit all the time, because they're pretty much allowed to.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:49 AM on February 2, 2011


But yeah, that's all the more reason to use rape instead of flaying. If it's something actually in the game, it's not as humorous as something that's hyperbolic.

...what?
posted by maryr at 10:50 AM on February 2, 2011


ChurchHatesTucker: “But yeah, that's all the more reason to use rape instead of flaying. If it's something actually in the game, it's not as humorous as something that's hyperbolic.”

This is probably somewhat ancillary, as I know you meant "hyperbolic" in the context of the game. But it strikes me that one of the points of misunderstanding may be that for some people being "raped to sleep" is an absurdly hyperbolic amount of cartoon violence, and is humorous because that's just a ridiculously horrific and terrible thing, whereas for other people it's actually within the realm of possibility.
posted by koeselitz at 10:52 AM on February 2, 2011


It's amazing to me how many directions this fpp has gone. I wonder if there'd be any controversy if Oglaf had done the same strip. (And yes, I know Oglaf is written and drawn by a woman.)
posted by Catblack at 10:53 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thank you misha for digging up that statistic:

The rate of forcible rapes in 2005 was estimated at 62.5 offenses per 100,000 female inhabitants, a 2.0 percent decrease when compared to the 2004 estimate of 63.8 forcible rapes per 100,000 female inhabitants.

With the caveat that yes, many rapes probably do go unreported, this shows conclusively that the 1-in-6 number is at the very least cast into serious doubt.

The key difference here, I think, as with most things, is in semantics. The FBI is only reporting here on the following definition of rape:

Forcible rape, as defined in the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, is the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. Assaults and attempts to commit rape by force or threat of force are also included; however, statutory rape (without force) and other sex offenses are excluded.

Those that are eager to be outraged about 'rape culture' generally have an extremely loose definition of rape. Upthread, for instance, I saw this:

On the other, other hand, the last episode of AD that I re-watched contained a clear cut example of rape by deception. So...something.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:05 AM on February 2 [+] [!]


"Rape by deception?"

Wikipedia has an article for it, but it only has two examples: a man pretending to be his twin brother to sleep with his girlfriend, and a Jewish woman told by a Muslim man that he was Jewish and unmarried.

To be clear, lying to a woman in order to have sex with her is not rape. If that were an accepted definition of rape, 100% of humans, male and female, are rapists.

I am concerned about this creeping boundary of what is rape and what is not. Including this concept of 'rape culture,' by which suddenly we are all walking around, being guilty of inciting rape without even realizing it. To my mind, such reasoning is immediately adjacent to 'letting the terrorists win'--using a common enemy in order to push an agenda.
posted by silentpundit at 10:55 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


To be clear, lying to a woman in order to have sex with her is not rape. If that were an accepted definition of rape, 100% of humans, male and female, are rapists.

just because you need to lie...
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:56 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


silentpundit, you probably should have gone eponysterical with that one.
posted by maryr at 10:57 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


But it strikes me that one of the points of misunderstanding may be that for some people being "raped to sleep" is an absurdly hyperbolic amount of cartoon violence, and is humorous because that's just a ridiculously horrific and terrible thing, whereas for other people it's actually within the realm of possibility.

You're likely right, but I don't think they need to be mutually exclusive. Black humor is still humor.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:57 AM on February 2, 2011


I've never heard it/seen it used that way. Has anyone else? I usually see it as synonymous with "pwn".

I can speak to this as a former guild master and general pick-up group (i.e., random people thrown together for a dungeon) player in WoW.

Male teenagers are, well, male teenagers. Stupid and full of hormones. Some adults pretend to be teenagers, too, maturity wise. Anyway, having said that, I cannot think of any time in chats where the conversaion has run

[NOT A CONVO]
Player1: Oh, ha ha, you'll rape that person for sure!
Player2: Yes, I very much enjoy this rape.

More often like this...

[Boss delivers horrible damage, completely obliterating group]
Outsider: Hey guys how did the attempt go?
Player1: ughg.... raped...
Outsider: Oh, that bad? :[

I've usually seen the rape term, albeit infrequently, implied when a player's character was -- even though it's bits and bytes -- um, violated, horribly treated, etc. I agree that it is not often used with levity and just thrown around.

Not to declare them all crowning angels, of course, this is in stark contrast to racial epithets, homosexual epithets (by and large the HUGE amount of disciplinary actions I enforced for the guild were this), and religious epithets. 5,000 "Gayyyyyy" for every 1 "Rape". I would much more quickly submit --- only slightly kidding -- every online game player to a mandatory 16 hour sensitivity training about other racial, sexual, religious groups before I gave them a gender empowerment one -- which, you know, wouldn't be that bad of an idea, either.
posted by cavalier at 10:57 AM on February 2, 2011


One of the characters is a talking anthropomorphic dog.

I'm pretty sure that's supposed to be a tauren.


I know this is going to make me sound like I have my nose in the air and I apologize in advance for that, but this strip is a good example of why I don't read PA. Every now and then someone on MetaFilter links to one of their strips and I go read it because I want to laugh at things, and they are invariably totally unfunny.

The premise here is so obvious to anyone who's played WoW that I'm amazed it's considered a joke. Easily 9 out 10 quests work this way--you can't not notice it. There was even one in Wrath of the Lich King that required you to torture a captive. It caused notable controversy in the gaming world because it sort of dropped your beloved high-level character into the middle of the waterboarding controversy that was going on at the time.

As much as there is to get from the last panel, I get it. It's just nowhere near as notable as dickwolves or rape. So the repeated assertion here that the focus on 'raped by dickwolves' is unjustified and that the other thing is a punchline we should pay attention to is making my head explode. Not because I think the people saying that are all crazy, but because I think this is a typically crap comic from PA.
posted by heatvision at 10:58 AM on February 2, 2011


I'm pretty sure that's supposed to be a tauren.

No, it's a Worgen, who were added in the new expansion

they're werewolf people, very dapper.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:01 AM on February 2, 2011


using a common enemy in order to push an agenda

Having an "agenda" of letting people know "rape jokes aren't funny, rape and PTSD is actually something real that happens a lot" and having a common enemy of rapists is not the same thing at all as Republicans making up reasons to justify invading Iraq.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:02 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Please, please, please can we ignore silentpundit and his statistics fail?
posted by Justinian at 11:02 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree that it is not often used with levity and just thrown around.

Rape is never portrayed as a good thing, surely, but it is definitely tossed around by gamers far, far, far more than it should be. (as are things like 'bitch', 'gay', 'fag' and 'nigger', for that matter)
posted by empath at 11:02 AM on February 2, 2011


I would much more quickly submit --- only slightly kidding -- every online game player to a mandatory 16 hour sensitivity training about other racial, sexual, religious groups before I gave them a gender empowerment one -- which, you know, wouldn't be that bad of an idea, either.

Trust me, that would only expand their arsenal of offensiveness. It's sort of the point of smack-talking.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:02 AM on February 2, 2011


No, it's a Worgen, who were added in the new expansion

I'd like to meet his tailor.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:02 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Just followed your link Justinian to the detailed analysis of the survey showing 1-in-6 women (and 1-in-33 men?!!?) and they do use the definition of 'forced vaginal, oral, or anal penetration.'

So, I absolutely retract my statement that semantics is the explanation.

Repeat:

I RETRACT.
posted by silentpundit at 11:03 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Rape by deception?"

Wikipedia has an article for it, but it only has two examples: a man pretending to be his twin brother to sleep with his girlfriend[.]


This is basically what happens in AD, by the by. It's not a case of pretending to be a millionaire in order to have sex. I've never heard of anyone being offended by that particular scene, but I was pointing it out because AD and rape and the specter of a potential double standard for judging PA and AD had come up.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:04 AM on February 2, 2011


The premise here is so obvious to anyone who's played WoW that I'm amazed it's considered a joke.

Everybody who played the first Mass Effect knew you seemed to spend a goddamn inordinate amount of time standing around in elevators while you're supposed to be saving the Universe, but that didn't make it less funny when they put it in the strip. Maybe their brand of humor just doesn't work for you; that's cool. But I think it can occasionally be stellar. It's the only webcomic I haven't gotten bored with after a few months.
posted by Justinian at 11:05 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Good on you for the caps, silenpundit. Have you successfully avoided the fire and pitchforks? We shall see.
posted by Justinian at 11:06 AM on February 2, 2011


Only clarification on my comment, btw: the reaction shirt was designed and posted in October of 2010.
posted by ShawnStruck at 11:06 AM on February 2, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: “Am I more like kmz now? Is that enough to make you love me?”

I don't get these snide remarks.


Doing the equivalent of "soso understands, why can't you?" will often, but always, prompt snide remarks.

All I'm saying is this: (a) the gaming community often makes jokey references to rape; (b) these jokes alienate people who've actually been raped.

I was explaining this thread to my wife over lunch. Her response was "It's WoW, why are they taking a subset of a subset of a subset seriously?"

Also, when asked what she thought of upon hearing the word "dickwolves" she replied "cougars".

Oh dear.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:08 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


So because if Kobe Bryant was successfully convicted of rape charges does that mean that I can no longer wear a LA Lakers cap?

Out of curiosity, was this meant as a genuine question, or some sort of dismissive reductio ad absurdum because you think the discussion is idiotic?

If the former, no. It's a very bad parallel. If the latter, could I ask that you try and participate in good faith, rather than bad faith?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:08 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


What bugs me about this whole thing is that the original strip was the opposite of rape culture as I understand it. It wasn't making light of rape or implying that anyone deserved it. It was humour - but it was using the enormity of rape to make the reader seriously uncomfortable. The absolute opposite of prison rape or other casual rape jokes. If it had been treating rape casually rather than as incredibly serious, it would have undermined the whole thing. It is not excusing it, it is saying "This is something no good person would let pass".

So the accusations that it was rape culture were so far off the mark as to seriously undermine any sympathy to the very concept of rape culture in people who might otherwise be sympathetic. The core joke was supported because rape is serious. And because no good person would hear something like that and not want to help.

The intent was therefore, if I am right, the opposite of rape culture. Which makes the accusations of rape culture IMO unjust (although the triggering might have a point), and people often react badly to accusations especially if they know them to be unjust. But this in no way excuses the sheer assholery of Penny Arcade's response.
posted by Francis at 11:08 AM on February 2, 2011 [17 favorites]


This is why you need to be careful about bandying about pernicious terms. Used carelessly, you'll create enemies.

This is why you need to be careful about flameouts in the comments section on random blogs, followed by releasing and promoting extremely offensive t-shirts in association with your multi-million-dollar media company. Done carelessly, it's extremely bad for business.

PA are supposed to be the professionals here. That's the whole problem. They could have politely defended the comic, they could have ignored the original response, whatever, we all would have moved on with our lives and it would be another minor internet incident. Instead they have succumbed to their own Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, while somehow forgetting that they are far from anonymous.
posted by mek at 11:10 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


But rape isn't actually a part of Warcraft, whereas flaying is. There are enslaved NPCs that are beaten but none that are raped. The PA authors introduced rape into the context of Warcraft. Gamer culture has a big problem with its attitude towards sexual violence, including introducing sexual violence into games where it is not present (e.g. teabagging in FPS games). That is how the strip perpetuates gamer culture's unfortunate attitude towards sexual violence.

I don't understand this as a basis for criticism. WoW's lack of sexual violence as a component is a way in which it is LESS reflective of the world and real life. Slaves and prisoners are raped in reality. Invading military forces do rape, both for their own gratification and as a tool of subjugation.

For PA to introduce the suggestion that a prisoner would be raped (and by an extreme fantastical creature apparently designed to do so) is to introduce a very realistic repercussion for a slave - who the player is failing to liberate from that fate. That introduction of a realistic component is a mirror of the introduction of the moral implications that this act of walking away after an arbitrary number of folks saved has in reality.

I personally don't think they're good enough writers for this to be a conscious decision, but I am willing to believe it was a subconscious paralleling. Regardless, I don't see how you can assert that it's inappropriate to introduce the concept of rape into a game where it is not reflected while making a joke about how the real moral implications of this act are not reflected in the game.
posted by phearlez at 11:11 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


edgeways, I thought the t-shirt was gratuitous but inevitable and I kind of liked the artwork and I was neither up or down on the apology/explanation. I do agree that they could do worse than shutting their yaps now because I don't want to be seen to defend people who are, clearly, dicks.

As for other rape survivors who don't find it funny and are upset by it: I'm truly sorry about that, in the same way I would be sorry to see someone hurt by any joke.

I ought to say, however, that I don't find rape jokes (as a class of joke) funny - many I have heard are all too real to me and others and I'm not slow in calling someone out on it. Actually, I think that's the crux of the matter: I don't see this as a rape joke, I really don't. I actually think it's a joke about a box-ticking, clock-watching 'hero'. The way the feedline was phrased was kind of funny and I liked the "Hey, pal. Don't make this weird." Who knew mythical creatures were so mundane?
posted by littleredspiders at 11:12 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks, danb and Threeway Handshake. I stand corrected about the t-shirt. And given the context the Dickwolves t-shirt was produced in it sounds like it was a counter attack not simple gaucherie.
posted by Jane the Brown at 11:14 AM on February 2, 2011


silentpundit: " To be clear, lying to a woman in order to have sex with her is not rape. If that were an accepted definition of rape, 100% of humans, male and female, are rapists."

My understanding is that this can be a legal gray area depending on the situation. Very few jurisdictions classify fraud as a way one person can commit rape against another. However, the definition of rape hinges on the question of consent. Depending on the specifics of a particular case, deception (and deception alone) may vitiate consent.
posted by zarq at 11:15 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


To accuse someone of "perpetuating rape culture" is a pretty intense charge to make.

We all perpetuate injustice of some kind, knowingly or not, depending on our level of privilege. To be able to examine one's own privilege and deal with what that means (mostly, that it wasn't just your genius that got you where you are, but also the fact that your privilege benefits you, sometimes at the expense of others) is a sign of maturity. To viciously strike out at someone's calling you on it, is not.

And shall we gain some perspective here? If I am being asked who to sympathize with more, a guy who gets his feelings hurt (and then acts like a raging douchebag) about being told he was being hurtful to rape victims, or actual rape victims, not much of a decision to make there.

Sexism is deep in our culture and it isn't just about laws and rights, but about attitudes we are taught from the getgo that posit the superiority of men to women and their right to more privileges as a result. It's going to take a while to explore and change all the twisted gender role/sexual violence bullshit we are all soaking in, and while no one should be thought-policed, it's perfectly fair to point out when someone is perpetuating it.

To be clear, lying to a woman in order to have sex with her is not rape. If that were an accepted definition of rape, 100% of humans, male and female, are rapists.

First, speak for yourself. Secondly, if a particular lie means she's having sex with someone she did not consent to having sex with, then what should we call it?

Rape culture and rapists are two different things. Unless you've committed rape, you're not a rapist; that doesn't mean you aren't surrounded by a culture that perpetuates it.
posted by emjaybee at 11:16 AM on February 2, 2011 [14 favorites]


I'd been disappointed in them for hearing such personal, intense, moving testimony from the objectors and not caring

I used to think of Penny Arcade as a unfunny (to me, sorry) comic about a genre I wasn't far enough into to even get most of the jokes. After the whole Jesse Thorn freakout on their part someone noted in old threads here that the PA guys do have some actual issues that might lead to these sorts of tone deaf readings. I can't remember if one is agoraphobic and the other has aspergers or both, but the "not caring" part and the not getting it could be actual problems the guys have with understanding other people at the most basic level. I mean, I know it's a thing for teen gamers to not understand empathy for anyone else at all, but these grown 30/40-somethings might be displaying the same behaviors for mental/medical reasons.

This doesn't excuse their asshole behavior or things they said, but it could explain why it feels like yelling at a brick wall to argue with them on the PA forums or twitter.
posted by mathowie at 11:17 AM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'd heard about this controversy before, but I didn't think much of it. On webcomics and other sites, it's not uncommon for the uses to be somewhat clueless on these issues. I've seen similiar rape jokes, gay jokes, whatever. Reminds when a while back, The Nostalgia Critic got in trouble for for a joke about autistic children, but no one seemed to care when he made gay jokes. It's just par the course.
posted by catwash at 11:23 AM on February 2, 2011


I'll admit, I chuckled at the original strip. I'm also a sexual-assult survivor. But frankly, it's not Huck Finn and seems an absurdly mediocre joke to defend in the interest of picking a ongoing fight with feminists. People who are offended by the joke are reasonable in their interpretation.

I don't even think that PA needed to apologize for the original strip. I'm reminded of Gilbert Gottfried's legendary recovery when he bombed a few weeks after 9/11 by joking that he couldn't get a connecting flight to the Empire State Building. Rather than trying to justify the joke, he expertly changed the subject to The Aristocrats, arguably a more offensive joke.

And granted, I'm not fond of PA to begin with. They're often too wordy for the medium, it's insider humor for people who follow game "journalism," and they can't resist explaining themselves. That's what's getting them into trouble. If you feel the need to explain the joke, you probably failed and the people you're talking to won't find it funny anyway.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:24 AM on February 2, 2011


It's a dude saying he's being raped. It's not a girl. That's part of the goddamn joke. Ergo, not a feminist issue, no matter how hard you try to make it one.

You know how to have a sense of humor? DON'T PICK THINGS APART FOR YOUR OWN PERSONAL AGENDA. That's how.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 11:25 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a dude saying he's being raped. It's not a girl. That's part of the goddamn joke. Ergo, not a feminist issue, no matter how hard you try to make it one.

What is "people who don't know what the fuck feminism is", Alex
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:27 AM on February 2, 2011 [45 favorites]


unsupervised: "The Penny Arcade guys have a history of being actively hostile when they are clearly in the wrong. Look at what they did to MeFi's own YoungAmerican, Jesse Thorn."

Yeah, that left such a terrible taste in my mouth that I've actively avoided Penny Arcade since then. It gave me the impression of them as a couple of sophomoric assholes, which colored my reaction to the strip. I don't really have a problem with the individual comic in question here (although I certainly understand why some do), but their response to this debacle has done nothing but cement that impression.
posted by brundlefly at 11:28 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


If that were an accepted definition of rape, 100% of human

Ah, further confirmation I am not human. Don't know weather to thank you or not.
posted by edgeways at 11:28 AM on February 2, 2011


What bothers me the most here is that both sides are being dogmatic and absolutist on a subject that is subjective and it's feminism, which has really important work to do (as in making the world a better place, not as in it needs self improvement), that's being damaged by it.

Simply feeling strongly on a matter does not make one correct. To use another example I see often here, quite a few transgendered people feel that everyone MUST accept the concept. My conservative relatives feel equally opposite. If the trans people fight for absolute acceptance with no compromise, rather than for safety and freedom from discrimination, then those relatives are unlikely to listen to ANYTHING they have to say, shutting down any dialog and chance for change.

Basically nothing that's been said about the matter (here or elsewhere) has changed more than a few minds. But it has had the effect that people who might previously been inclined to pay attention to a feminist blog talking about the redefinition of rape bill will be more likely to dismiss the writer as "that feminist who got all bent out of shape by a comic."

And that's a shame.
posted by Candleman at 11:29 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Francis: “What bugs me about this whole thing is that the original strip was the opposite of rape culture as I understand it. It wasn't making light of rape or implying that anyone deserved it. It was humour - but it was using the enormity of rape to make the reader seriously uncomfortable. The absolute opposite of prison rape or other casual rape jokes. If it had been treating rape casually rather than as incredibly serious, it would have undermined the whole thing. It is not excusing it, it is saying "This is something no good person would let pass".”

I disagree, and I'll try to say why. First of all, you must see that you're straining a bit when you claim that it was Penny Arcade's intent to "make the reader seriously uncomfortable," right? What purpose would that serve? I'm aware that when you say that, what you mean (I think) is that the point, the barb of the joke is that rape is terrifying, and that the joke isn't funny if rape isn't a bad thing. Right?

However, even though I agree with you on that, I still think the joke makes light of rape a bit, and shows a lot of insensitivity.

Why? Well, because rape in this case is a kind of cartoonish violence. It's supposed to be horrific beyond imagining. If I'm not mistaken, what actually makes it okay is the very fact that it's cartoonish and over the top; the inane hyperbole is what makes it laughable, right?

And the difficulty some are having, I think, is that being "raped to sleep" (which is a terrifying phrase that frankly I hardly even feel comfortable typing) is tragically not an inane hyperbole for many, many people. It's horrific, but it's real, and it is not beyond imagining. It's only three words, but that vivid description of a painful reality stands out, above and beyond everything else in the strip.

To go a little further into my feelings on this: because it's only three words, sometimes they slip out, and I understand that the PA guys didn't intend to hurt a lot of people or put them down or perpetuate rape culture. This is not about how they're terrible people; it certainly shouldn't be. They are not (to my knowledge) rapists. And I appreciate that it can really hurt to be called out on something like this; I've had that happen myself here. It's not fun because, unless you're a sociopath, you care about what people think of you, and you care (at least on some level) about other people and their perceptions.

However, this is serious stuff, and I think we need to set aside those feelings and see things for what they are. The words in that strip can cause pain. It wasn't Penny Arcade's intention to cause pain; but that's what comes out of the strip. And in this situation, I think it was down to them to try to make the best of that situation, and try to undo some of that pain. We seem to agree that where they went from there was quite unfortunate.
posted by koeselitz at 11:29 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


What is "people who don't know what the fuck feminism is", Alex

Yeah, I've disagreed with a number of things you've said here, Pope, but "The joke was a guy getting raped, so it can't be about women" packs more forehead-slapping not-getting-the-point into one sentence than I thought was possible.
posted by verb at 11:29 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


And shall we gain some perspective here? If I am being asked who to sympathize with more, a guy who gets his feelings hurt (and then acts like a raging douchebag) about being told he was being hurtful to rape victims, or actual rape victims, not much of a decision to make there.

The frak? Just because you've had horrible things done to you, doesn't mean you get to accuse people of horrible things willy-nilly.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:30 AM on February 2, 2011


It's a dude saying he's being raped. It's not a girl. That's part of the goddamn joke. Ergo, not a feminist issue, no matter how hard you try to make it one.

Rape is often a crime of violence, power, and control, not just forcible sex for the sake of sexual gratification. The use of rape to oppress and humiliate one kind of powerless person (e.g. a slave) often leads to its use against other kinds of powerless people (e.g. women, in many situations).

Further, homophobia and making light of sexual violence against men often go hand in hand with misogyny and making light of sexual violence against women.

Finally, PA may have used a man as the example, but NPCs in Warcraft are often randomly generated and may just as well be women as men.
posted by jedicus at 11:31 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


...Aaand, may I add that it was not even a human doing the raping? It was something called a Dickwolf. OUTRAGE!
posted by gorgor_balabala at 11:31 AM on February 2, 2011


Finally, PA may have used a man as the example, but NPCs in Warcraft are often randomly generated and may just as well be women as men.

Wait. I thought there wasn't actually rape in WoW.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:32 AM on February 2, 2011


Ergo, not a feminist issue, no matter how hard you try to make it one.

You're right. It's a human issue, and one that feminists have addressed more comprehensively than anybody else, because women are raped with much greater frequency than others. We should all be concerned about jokes that seem to view traumatic sexual victimization as a throwaway joke, where it seems to be told by somebody for whom the event is such an abstraction that it's just something tossed off, when that same comic would probably be a lot more careful in explicitly referencing, say, racist violence, or the Holocaust, or child molestation.

And this is how it's part of rape culture. Because, regardless of who is presented as the victim in the strip, it's a joke that seems to demonstrate that the cartoonist thinks of rape as an abstract comedic device, and not something that may have happened to his readers, and therefore should be approached with caution. A large part of the discussion about rape culture is about precisely this -- that the experience of rape is repeatedly minimized, treated as something that need not be approached seriously.

And this should be something that everybody takes seriously, and discusses with sensitivity, feminist or not.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:33 AM on February 2, 2011 [13 favorites]


I can't remember if one is agoraphobic and the other has aspergers or both, but the "not caring" part and the not getting it could be actual problems the guys have with understanding other people at the most basic level.

The part where they flaunted that "not caring" on a t-shirt people could buy & wear proudly is the ickiest part of this, and on a level far beyond a tone-deaf reading. That's willful. Lots of people appear to have been down with it. It's really ugly.
posted by mintcake! at 11:33 AM on February 2, 2011


Some of the tone in this thread improved during my walk, except for one thing-- can we agree to actually read the prior comments before going off half-cocked (as it were....)?

Some highlights:

* The t-shirt in question is not the survivors one;
* "Team Rape" was actually coined by a twitter supporter of the PA side in this controversy, and isn't just a strawfigure label (although I, for one, have defended it as pretty much a fair one for the t-shirt);
* Most posters in this thread -- by my count-- that are calling out the t-shirt and PA's subsequent defenses were either neutral towards or in favor of the original comic;
* Rape culture is an academic concept with a meaning that maybe you should look up first before ignorantly making fun of it as not existing.

If people recognized those four recurrent ideas instead of rehashing them, the rest of this thread might advance. Thanks.
posted by norm at 11:33 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Wait. I thought there wasn't actually rape in WoW.

There isn't. My point was that if there were, the fact that PA illustrated it with a male NPC does not mean that it would exclusively involve male NPCs in the game. Most 'free the prisoners' quests feature a random mixture of male and female NPCs.
posted by jedicus at 11:34 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


There isn't. My point was that if there were, the fact that PA illustrated it with a male NPC does not mean that it would exclusively involve male NPCs in the game. Most 'free the prisoners' quests feature a random mixture of male and female NPCs.

OK, that's just several layers of 'if.'
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:36 AM on February 2, 2011


gorgor_balabala: "It's a dude saying he's being raped. It's not a girl. That's part of the goddamn joke. Ergo, not a feminist issue, no matter how hard you try to make it one."

I guess maybe there's a commutative property of morality? Does that make sense to you?

gorgor_balabala: "You know how to have a sense of humor? DON'T PICK THINGS APART FOR YOUR OWN PERSONAL AGENDA. That's how"

Please use your words.
posted by boo_radley at 11:37 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh boy, Penny Arcade! That's where I'm a viking!
posted by Who_Am_I at 11:37 AM on February 2, 2011


people joke about being raped in captivity because it is a horrendous thing. It's one of the most horrendous things that can happen to you, and that's why people joke about it, and not because they're being cavalier about it...We do it because we don't want to think about it, because it is so fucking horrible, because we can't contemplate our destruction, so we turn it on its head.

It's a difficult subject. But by using humor to keep it at arms length, we also keep at arms length the people in our midst who have been raped.

The defense mechanism of joking about rape may have as its source, "I can't bear to think about the possibility that I could be raped" but the effect is also, "I refuse to acknowledge the suffering of people around me who have been raped."
posted by straight at 11:37 AM on February 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


OK, that's just several layers of 'if.'

And if you were illiterate, you wouldn't have been able to read any of this. And that would have been the real tragedy.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:38 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has anyone mentioned that WoW's quest mechanics prevent you from accomplishing more than the allotted number of goals in a given quest? You literally can't save the 11th victim, harvest the 11th root, or salvage the 11th robot. You can't even right-click on them.

It's not that the heroes are heartless, it's that the world itself forbids compassionate behavior outside of the constraints of quest structure.
posted by lumensimus at 11:38 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's not that the heroes are heartless, it's that the world itself forbids compassionate behavior outside of the constraints of quest structure.

Yes, but the "humor" in the original would ostensibly come from the juxtaposition of those otherwise sensible game mechanics with how horrible it would be in real life.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:39 AM on February 2, 2011


* Most posters in this thread -- by my count-- that are calling out the t-shirt and PA's subsequent defenses were either neutral towards or in favor of the original comic;

Count me in that camp. I still maintain that the comic is pretty easy to defend, and that those who focus on its offensiveness are barking up the wrong tree. The ratcheted-up responses in the form of the T-shirt and the tweets is indefensibly, deliberately assholish.
posted by verb at 11:39 AM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


Look, I totally agree that the subject of rape should be approached with caution. But I really think the cartoonist did that. He made the victim a male. Who is a slave. Of a "Dickwolf". In a fictional universe. Do you, or anyone you know, know anyone who was raped under those circumstances?

In other words, try to separate your own personal pain from a bit of comedy you come across. It is not about you. Comedy feeds on dark things.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 11:41 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rape culture is an academic concept with a meaning that maybe you should look up first before ignorantly making fun of it as not existing.

IMO, it's a term that should stay in the academy, because all it accomplishes on message boards is to put peoples back up. Find a way to talk to people about it without implying that anybody that disagrees with you is pro-rape. I don't care if you don't think it implies that, it does, and only serves to make what could be a reasonable conversation unnecessarily advesarial.
posted by empath at 11:42 AM on February 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


...Aaand, may I add that it was not even a human doing the raping? It was something called a Dickwolf. OUTRAGE!

I do love threads like these because of how they make a certain subset's circuit's short out and sputter. I mean, I get that you are probably a very smart person in real life, but you are arguing at the level of like, a really smart parakeet right now.
posted by hermitosis at 11:43 AM on February 2, 2011 [27 favorites]


And shall we gain some perspective here? If I am being asked who to sympathize with more, a guy who gets his feelings hurt (and then acts like a raging douchebag) about being told he was being hurtful to rape victims, or actual rape victims, not much of a decision to make there.

Except no one was asking you to pick someone to "sympathize with more" - it is possible to sympathize with rape victims while at the same time trying to find a way to keep the fighty-accusatory levels down when someone has unknowingly abused their privilege. If you tell someone who has a limited understanding of gender and privilege that they are perpetuating rape culture, trust me, to them it's going to sound like you're telling them that either a) They are responsible for people being raped or b) Rape culture is their fault or c) They have no respect for rape victims, or any combination of those things.

And they are going to react to that, and it's not going to be along the lines of "You know what you're right, I am so sorry. I pledge to never let this happen again." It's going to be "Fuck you, that is completely ridiculous, fuck you haters, fuck you feminists, fuck you PC police Imma do my comic how I want." I used to be like this (minus having my own comic).

I think these guys should be called out, and I think there should be a discussion about jokes like this when they're made, because I think a lot of onlookers who were once oblivious to these things are now going to start thinking about them. But when the rhetoric gets pushed to the levels of "YOU ARE PERPETUATING [RACE/CLASS/GENDER] PROBLEMS...YES YOU" it's fighting fire with fire.
posted by windbox at 11:43 AM on February 2, 2011


Yes, but the "humor" in the original would ostensibly come from the juxtaposition of those otherwise sensible game mechanics with how horrible it would be in real life.

I don't disagree. I played on an RP server for all of two hours once as a Mage, complaining in-character that the only thing anyone ever really learned from was death. Can't get better at magic unless you zap something that could kill you, after all.

No one picked up on it, alas.
posted by lumensimus at 11:44 AM on February 2, 2011


What I mean is that it's a bad, easily misunderstood phrase outside of the academic/feminist context, and if you expect people to care about what you are saying, starting the conversation off with by saying something inflammatory that requires a visit to wikipedia to understand is probably not the best way to go about it. You should tailor your rhetoric for your audience.
posted by empath at 11:46 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Count me in that camp.

Me too. I'm not mad about the strip, but I think it got caught up in the mechanics of telling a joke, which was basically the Cathy approach of building in absurdity and then ending with some kind of deadpan last frame. It was pretty tone deaf, and, as I said, I think it minimizes rape to an abstraction, but, in the structure of the joke, rape is a terrible thing that somebody would want to be saved from, even if this is presented through a fantastic exaggeration. There's a criticism of the joke that can be made, but people can disagree about that criticism.

It was the follow up behavior that really pushed it over the line.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:46 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Unless, I guess, you don't intend to persuade, and merely intend to clearly label ideological enemies and force people to choose sides.
posted by empath at 11:48 AM on February 2, 2011


Do you, or anyone you know, know anyone who was raped under those circumstances?

Please just stop posting.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:49 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I do love threads like these because of how they make a certain subset's circuit's short out and sputter. I mean, I get that you are probably a very smart person in real life, but you are arguing at the level of like, a really smart parakeet right now.

I totally agree. The original 'offended' link displayed about that level of awareness.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:49 AM on February 2, 2011


Or maybe we use words that describe what we're talking about because they best describe those concepts
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:49 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


you are arguing at the level of like, a really smart parakeet right now.

I'm actually ok with you thinking that. I hadn't read most of the 400-odd comments above mine before sputtering, nor have I been involved in RPGs enough to grok how real they can be for a subset of (otherwise intelligent) people, so I hold accountability for that.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 11:50 AM on February 2, 2011


Let's not call one another parakeets, unless someone actually has colorful plumage and an adorable little beak, like some sort of horrible Cronenbergian mistake.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:51 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


(Disclaimers: I'm one of the diehard PA fan people: have all the books, read all the strips, attend PAX every year, etc. I found the Jesse/PA conflict to be hilarious on both sides. I am, in short, kind of an asshole. I have met the PA staff on a couple of occasions, and I have had a few conversations with Jerry. I don't believe I've ever spoken to Mike.)

This whole thing has been tremendously disappointing. As has been noted repeatedly, the original comic didn't especially bother me, but I suspected that it would bother others and reading their thoughts was illuminating. The response comic was kind of funny, although it was fairly clear that they didn't really get why they'd offended people, but it did seem like sort of an apology to me. That's about when they should have shut the hell up.

Then they announced the T-shirt, and I thought that was idiotic. I was in the room at PAX when Mike started drawing, at fan request, the full dickwolf, and I remember turning to my ex-girlfriend and saying, "This is a really terrible idea." I later saw the dickwolf pennants and couldn't believe how stupid they were being.

There's a real "for the lulz"/"fuck you, no fuck you" thing going on here. Mike seems to believe that any kind of sincere apology would completely unman him and reduce him to a prideless, grovelling tool. I just don't get why he has to keep picking at this thing and making it worse. I see him at PAX every year on the show floor and he's a genuinely caring person who takes a lot of time out to talk to people about their experiences with anxiety disorders and therapies. He's definitely not a bad person. But he has this weird blind spot in this area that makes him seem like the worst sort of misogynist, and it's really frustrating.

I'm not going to stop reading PA, and I'm not going to stop going to PAX. But I'm not at all surprised that other people are, and I couldn't blame them for a moment.
posted by Errant at 11:52 AM on February 2, 2011 [25 favorites]


starting the conversation off with by saying something inflammatory that requires a visit to wikipedia to understand is probably not the best way to go about it. You should tailor your rhetoric for your audience.

Rape culture isn't just an academic phrase. I mean, hell, antisemitism started off as an academic phrase, as did homophobia. They enter broader conversation because they are useful in discussing behavior. And it's not like rape culture is that obscure a phrase.

Perhaps, instead of advising us to throw out a valid, useful word, you might advise people who get their backs thrown out by it to actually look it up before they freak out. It's not an indictment of an individual, any more than, say patriarchy is. It's a description of a generalized cultural norm, and one we may be participating in without knowing it. By knowing what the phrase means, we can determine whether we are supporting this culture or not.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:52 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


* Most posters in this thread -- by my count-- that are calling out the t-shirt and PA's subsequent defenses were either neutral towards or in favor of the original comic;

Add me to these ranks too. I'm not a gamer and didn't really get the comic, but didn't reel super strongly about it one way or the other. The t-shirt and some of the other responses were pretty shocking to me, though. If folks haven't read ShawnStruck's fantastic comment, please go back and do so - it gives a good summary of a lot of the details that you may have missed if you didn't check out every link (and then the links within those links) in detail before commenting. I also share Jairus's surprise that more is being made of this strip - I don't know if I'd describe it as a "rape joke," but I felt that it was trivializing the issue and that the underlying message was "We can't do anything about rape and it's not our problem, so there."
posted by naoko at 11:53 AM on February 2, 2011


like some sort of horrible Cronenbergian mistake.

Or some beautiful costume from the furry subculture.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:54 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Every night we are raped to death by dickwolves" is a rape joke. The humor comes from the absurdity of the horror. We are meant to chuckle at that line, as the little joke that comes before the full punchline, which is an established comedic structure. The thrust of the comic is not a rape joke; the comic could have completely omitted any mention of rape and been just as funny.

Well, yes and no. The idea being stated here is that they are "raped to sleep." As one is lulled to sleep, or sung to sleep, or read to sleep by a loving parent. Meaning the tortures they suffer are so horrific that the unrelenting rape is actually a break from the even greater horrors. Which is where the humor (?) comes in; rape is actually pretty horrific. If it weren't and the guys weren't saying that, the joke would make no sense/have no impact.
posted by Eideteker at 11:57 AM on February 2, 2011


I hadn't read most of the 400-odd comments above mine before sputtering,

See, and this is really disappointing to read, because aside from a couple of internecine tiffs here and there, this has been a great thread, with some really wonderful perspectives and insights to be had.

I know it takes a while, and it can be tedious to plow through, but whenever you encounter one of these big contentious threads, I definitely recommend investing the time to read what's been posted before you start sputtering. If nothing else, you can be sure that any subsequent sputtering is worthwhile and not just, you know, noise that's already been addressed by someone else.
posted by shiu mai baby at 11:57 AM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Or some beautiful costume from the furry subculture.

(takes off cartoon fox mask, reveals horrible half-parakeet face underneath, grins monstrously, cue weird Howard Shore music, takes off half-parakeet face mask, reveals normal human face, cue dippy sitcom music, cue canned laughter, takes off normal human mask, reveals skull, cue ooky-spooky Halloween music, takes off skull, reveals empty space above a neck, cue silence, takes off empty space, reveals hideous void, the space between, the nothing beyond nothing)
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:59 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Rape culture isn't just an academic phrase. I mean, hell, antisemitism started off as an academic phrase, as did homophobia.

Yes, and all have been abused to the point where they're more cudgels than descriptive.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:00 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know much about this topic, but I have plenty of opinions about shirts. My opinion on this shirt? Not enough wolves.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:01 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would also say that most people do not respond well to being called anti-Semitic or homphobic, even if it's essentially true.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:01 PM on February 2, 2011


Yes, and all have been abused to the point where they're more cudgels than descriptive.

Or dismissed to the point that they're useless.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:01 PM on February 2, 2011


So, we're about all wrapped up here, right?
posted by cavalier at 12:02 PM on February 2, 2011


Christ, my brain just stopped functioning. Internecine is not at all the word I meant to use there. In fact, I can't think of what word I did mean to use, but, uh. That was not it. My apologies.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:03 PM on February 2, 2011


Or dismissed to the point that they're useless.

So we're agreed that they're useless when directed at those whose minds we want to sway.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:03 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, we're about all wrapped up here, right?

No, I was rescued by a PC.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:03 PM on February 2, 2011


I would also say that most people do not respond well to being called anti-Semitic or homphobic, even if it's essentially true.

If somebody is being antisemitic or homophobic, we have to be able to accurately describe the behavior. There are a lot of things people don't like to hear and react badly to. Those are often the things they most badly need to hear, and head described with the greatest clarity.

If you're argument is that we shouldn't use accurate descriptive phrased because people don't like to hear the truth, I'd be curious as to what you offer as an alternative. It's been my experience that these same people also respond badly to more circumspect language. I have also found they respond badly to Jews and homosexuals.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:04 PM on February 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


This is what i get for not putting out mothballs to keep the dickwolves out of my beanplate.
posted by dr_dank at 12:05 PM on February 2, 2011


Or dismissed to the point that they're useless.

Boy who cried Dickwolf?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:05 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sometimes people can be accurately described as "stupid" or "wrong," but it doesn't mean that you should engage them using those words and that angle.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:05 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


rape isn't actually a part of Warcraft

I would argue that this assertion is untrue. There is, for example, a quest chain where a female dragon is kidnapped by an evil male dragon and made his "unwilling mate." Minions of a different villainous dragon cackles that his master will "have his way" with the player and their allies.

Alextrasza, queen of all dragons, was held captive and forced to breed dozens of drakes for the Horde's armies in Warcraft 2.

You can make the argument that these are not human beings, but according to the games' universe they are sentient creatures, and they are shown to feel real agony for their experiences.

The only reason there is no explicit rape in WoW is because of it's Teen ESRB rating. They have, however, skirted the edges of euphemism as much as they can.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 12:06 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


ShawnStruck nailed it. Empath too.

One gets used to seeing mule-headed behavior when it comes to disagreements on the internet, but the reaction of the Penny Arcade guys to a debatable criticism of their comic really takes the prize. A mature response on the serious subject of rape that concedes no wrongdoing could not have been easier:

"It has come to our attention that a few members of our audience became upset after reading one of our comics. We would like to reassure those people that it was not our intention to condone rape or rape culture. While we stand behind our comic, we do acknowledge that rape is a sensitive and very serious issue..."

And then maybe link to sites better equipped to address the matter. They already enjoy the reputation of being charitable, so maybe a donation to RAINN to show that they're good guys who really mean it; an appeal to their audience to follow their lead would have been even better. A simple, normal, compassionate, adult response.

Instead, we bear witness to their incredibly petulant, indignant, childish reaction. Vile, oblivious, provocative stunts that probably would have made Andy Kaufman blush. A perfect exhibit for what happens when arrogance and self-righteousness takes precedence over civility.
posted by millions at 12:06 PM on February 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


empath: "What I mean is that it's a bad, easily misunderstood phrase outside of the academic/feminist context, and if you expect people to care about what you are saying, starting the conversation off with by saying something inflammatory that requires a visit to wikipedia to understand is probably not the best way to go about it. You should tailor your rhetoric for your audience."

The phrase has been described here as a shortened version of "rape minimization culture." Which would be clearer.

If people genuinely do not understand what any phrase means or what if they are being accused of and do not understand why, it is not terribly hard to copy and paste a phrase into a google search box and do their own homework before responding.

Also, considering that we here at Metafilter have had multiple, heavily-trafficked, usually MeTa'd discussions about rape which quite specifically delved into the aspects of Western society and culture which shame or blame victims, it seems reasonable to assume that if a MeFite decides to weigh in on such a well-traveled topic that they'd do so with some knowledge about it.
posted by zarq at 12:07 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


So we're agreed that they're useless when directed at those whose minds we want to sway.

I don't know about changing minds. I am just out to discuss my point of view using as clear and precise language as possible.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:09 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


If people genuinely do not understand what any phrase means or what if they are being accused of and do not understand why, it is not terribly hard to copy and paste a phrase into a google search box and do their own homework before responding.

I'd hazard a guess that most people are just going to tune out everything you say after being accused of 'perpetuating rape culture' unless you are very careful about how you phrase it. I gather that most people throwing around that term don't really care, though, because they are just scoring ideological points.
posted by empath at 12:12 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sometimes people can be accurately described as "stupid" or "wrong," but it doesn't mean that you should engage them using those words and that angle.

A fair point. But both are awfully imprecise. It may not be nice to tell somebody they are being stupid, but you might be doing them a world of good by pointing out precisely how they are being stupid.

I prefer to tell somebody that a specific piece of behavior is antisemitic, or homophobic, or an expression of rape culture, rather than say that person is antisemitic, or homophobic, or a rape apologist. And I explain why. This isn't insulting, or oppressive. It's a courtesy, and I would hope that others would do likewise for me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:13 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, thinking more about it, there's another rape in wow that is part of the storyline:

Malygos, the crazy blue dragon, imprisons Keristrasza and makes her his lover. At the end of the dungeon she is in, you mercy kill her.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:14 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


If people genuinely do not understand what any phrase means or what if they are being accused of and do not understand why, it is not terribly hard to copy and paste a phrase into a google search box and do their own homework before responding.

I'd argue that having to do homework before responding is bound to cause not care very much about the point being made.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:14 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


It may not be nice to tell somebody they are being stupid, but you might be doing them a world of good by pointing out precisely how they are being stupid.

No, you will probably not do a world of good. You will probably hurt their feelings and make them mad and they'll be more entrenched than ever to keep on doing what they're doing (or not what they're not). That makes the world a worse place.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:15 PM on February 2, 2011


I'd hazard a guess that most people are just going to tune out everything you say after being accused of 'perpetuating rape culture' unless you are very careful about how you phrase it.

well, yes. People should be cautious about how they use a phrase like that. But that's not the same as tossing it out altogether.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:16 PM on February 2, 2011


You will probably hurt their feelings and make them mad and they'll be more entrenched than ever to keep on doing what they're doing (or not what they're not). That makes the world a worse place.

So you've never had a friend tell you when you're making a mistake? Or, alternately, you've always responded badly, and the world is a worse place as a result?

Some of us can take criticism. Let's not assume everybody is going to lose their freaking mind because somebody thinks that they're not behaving very smartly.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:17 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sticherbeast: "I would also say that most people do not respond well to being called anti-Semitic or homphobic, even if it's essentially true."

If true, why should anyone give a damn whether they are going to respond well? Why in the world should we tiptoe around people who are doing or saying hateful things?

Homophobia and antisemitism (and for that matter, sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination,) should not require euphemisms. Such hatreds thrive on a culture of approval. You fight them by shining a public light on them, calling them what they are and saying, "This is not okay and here's why."
posted by zarq at 12:19 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Penny Arcade presented Dickwolves as rapists - their primary characteristic in the comic is that they rape prisoners. Then in response to some negative attention they made a t-shirt that says "Team Dickwolves". Are we now supposed to assume that Dickwolves are NOT primarily characterized by the fact that they rape prisoners?

Actually, yes. That's just what makes the t-shirt's joke work. It's a figurative notion in the first pl--... ah, nevermind.
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:19 PM on February 2, 2011


So you've never had a friend tell you when you're making a mistake?

That is different from being name-called, whether that name is "stupid" or "racist" or whatever, whether it's arguably accurate or definitely not.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:20 PM on February 2, 2011


I'd hazard a guess that most people are just going to tune out everything you say after being accused of 'perpetuating rape culture' unless you are very careful about how you phrase it.

I think that's the gist of this. Supporters of the concept see it everywhere, so it's applicable pretty much everywhere. Someone on the outside gets accused of it (and we can argue about whether it's justified,) and it's a pretty damning thing to be accused of. It's literally saying, 'you support rape.' That gets a negative reaction, obviously, from people who don't actually support, y'know, rape.

From there it devolves into name-calling. Possibly t-shirts.

A less accusatory tone might be in order if you're actually interested in winning folks to your side rather than raising an enemy host to tilt against.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:20 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


If true, why should anyone give a damn whether they are going to respond well? Why in the world should we tiptoe around people who are doing or saying hateful things?

Because there are better ways to communicate with people, even though it is certainly true that many people will keep on doing whatever they're doing no matter what.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:20 PM on February 2, 2011


Malygos, the crazy blue dragon, imprisons Keristrasza and makes her his lover. At the end of the dungeon she is in, you mercy kill her.

Not only that, he kidnaps and rapes her because you initiate the conflict by murdering his lover, specifically to piss him off. This is his retaliation against you, which ends with you killing Keristraza, who is totally blameless in all of this. (I couldn't help but wonder about dragon-on-dragon sex after finishing this quest.) The whole thing is even more messed up because Malygos is actually trying to restore balance to the universe as per his usual duty as the Aspect of Magic, by exterminating a bunch of magic users who have nearly destroyed the world by abusing their powers and attracting the attention of the Burning Legion (which ended in the Sunwell incident).

So you kill him for epix.

WoW lore has gone seriously downhill.
posted by mek at 12:22 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


But Stitcherbeast, as Astro Zombie pointed out, there is a world of difference between calling someone a name or using imprecise terminology (e.g. stupid, racist, etc) and saying "Hey, this thing? That you're doing? Is perpetuating a really nasty thing that you probably don't want to be a part of."

If the subject of that statement can't distinguish between name-calling (you're a racist!) versus calling-out behavior/actions (what you're doing is a racist thing!), then there really isn't much hope for the dialogue, but that problem is the subject's, not the person who's doing the call-out.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:23 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


That is different from being name-called, whether that name is "stupid" or "racist" or whatever, whether it's arguably accurate or definitely not.

I think you may be misunderstanding. It is possible to tell somebody that their behavior is homophobic -- "You know that joke was pretty homophobic" -- without leveling what you see as an insult at them -- "You are a homophobe."

It doesn't do, when somebody makes a joke that mocks gay people, to say, well, that joke offends me. You have to be specific. That joke is pretty thoughtless, because it belittles gay people. I'm not really a fan of homophobic jokes. I don't really like antisemitic gestures like swastikas being sprayed on my car. I'm not really crazy about cartoons that seem to support rape culture.

This isn't being insulting. It's being precise. You're probably right that there are people who would respond to this like it is an insult. Those people also probably start screaming at their mother when she suggests they might clean up their room.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:25 PM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


"A less accusatory tone might be in order if you're actually interested in winning folks to your side rather than raising an enemy host to tilt against."

That's pretty much a non starter, though. sSaying someone's gotta change their tone actually switches the topic from the points being made to how someone is now making them. Then all of a sudden everyone is then talking about how someone is supposed to speak in order for you or an assumed audience to listen, rather than talking about the points Ithat were first raised in the first place.
posted by ShawnStruck at 12:27 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


There's also a kind of sad irony here, that the people who are taking Penny Arcade to task for joking about actual traumas suffered by the PA audience are themselves being criticized for not being more understanding of people who don't understand why rape jokes are problematic. Yeesh.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:29 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Saying someone's gotta change their tone actually switches the topic from the points being made to how someone is now making them. Then all of a sudden everyone is then talking about how someone is supposed to speak in order for you or an assumed audience to listen, rather than talking about the points Ithat were first raised in the first place.

Isn't "how someone is supposed to speak in order for you or an assumed audience to listen" rather the point?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:31 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


So you kill him for epix.

Nah, it was for achievements. Aside from that one sword which was only good for shadowfrost DKs pre-patch, he had total shit, even at launch.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:31 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


mathowie: "I can't remember if one is agoraphobic and the other has aspergers or both, but the "not caring" part and the not getting it could be actual problems the guys have with understanding other people at the most basic level. "

Gabe (Mike) had an anxiety disorder, and Tycho (Jerry) is a recovering Mormon. I don't know that this excuses the confrontational behavior, but it might make for a useful insight if you wish to change their minds.
posted by pwnguin at 12:32 PM on February 2, 2011


Saying someone's gotta change their tone actually switches the topic from the points being made to how someone is now making them. Then all of a sudden everyone is then talking about how someone is supposed to speak in order for you or an assumed audience to listen, rather than talking about the points Ithat were first raised in the first place.

Well, since you are the one that's expecting someone to change their behavior, I guess that is more your problem to deal with than theirs. They can happily go along engaging in the behaviors you disapprove of while ignoring you completely.
posted by empath at 12:33 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Acknowledging that tone needs to be considered is a necessity of communication when emotional stakes are high. It can't be ignored. See, oh, all of this discussion.
posted by neuromodulator at 12:34 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the subject of that statement can't distinguish between name-calling (you're a racist!) versus calling-out behavior/actions (what you're doing is a racist thing!), then there really isn't much hope for the dialogue, but that problem is the subject's, not the person who's doing the call-out.

I am put in mind of the "how to talk about racism" youtubery posted here a while back. I mildly and gently disagree with your statement. I think that those of us who want to have an honest discussion of issues like this need to be able to make that distinction carefully when we explain why certain actions are hurtful and bad. Saying that the PA guys are sexist/rape culture "supporters" is a trap; it virtually invites them to do things like post their disingenuous "rape is bad, and if we made you go rape people with our comment stop NOW!" comic (a tour de force of comedy, by the way. Ha. Ha.).

However, I really wonder about the ones who buy the Dickwolves t-shirt. What is the message you're sending when you wear that? For someone who missed the cartoon, it could be kind of funny in that "Dickwolves" is mildly amusing in a 12-year-old sort of way. A fake sports team name, ho ho! But if you KNOW the controversy, it's genuinely troubling. Either it's a) I know about this rape-joke controversy, and I'm supporting those who think rape jokes are no big deal! And I am doing that by being on the team of the rapers! Fellow supporters, I am one of YOU! or b) if you don't like that cartoon and don't like what the shirt symbolizes, I am aware of your criticism and I don't care at all! Ha! Ha!

I don't know-- and I don't care, really-- if these guys are sexist pigs or what. I do know that this particular course of action and stance that they have wedded themselves to is counterproductive at best and truly, madly, deeply assholish at worst.
posted by norm at 12:35 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sticherbeast: " Because there are better ways to communicate with people, even though it is certainly true that many people will keep on doing whatever they're doing no matter what."

Chalk me up on the side of people who believe that honesty is the best way to communicate with people, then. When someone is perpetuating an attitude condoning sexual violence, I don't see how lying to them or sugar-coating criticism -- thereby deliberately muting one's point -- is going to somehow be more effective than telling them why what they're doing is wrong.
posted by zarq at 12:35 PM on February 2, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: " I'd argue that having to do homework before responding is bound to cause not care very much about the point being made."

If they can't be bothered to enter a discussion in good faith, that says a lot about them then.
posted by zarq at 12:36 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The idea being stated here is that they are "raped to sleep." As one is lulled to sleep, or sung to sleep, or read to sleep by a loving parent. Meaning the tortures they suffer are so horrific that the unrelenting rape is actually a break from the even greater horrors. Which is where the humor (?) comes in; rape is actually pretty horrific.

I think part of the point of the criticism is that it takes someone who does not really understand rape or has not been raped to suggest that there could be "even greater horrors". People who have suffered sexual assault or who are engaged in therapy of same do not generally like to minimize the assault by implying that there are worse things that could have happened. I don't think the comic is saying that rape is anything other than bad, but I can surely see how people would find it insensitive that a person would place this violation along a "better/worse" continuum of bad things that happen to people.

Even if we say "rape is the worst thing that could possibly happen", that still doesn't help, because the thing is that violations don't exist relative to one another, and to say that "rape is the worst" is to inadvertently minimize other traumas. To say it's not the worst is to minimize rape. The solution is simple: there is no hierarchy of horrors. They're all bad. That sounds simplistic, and maybe it is, but you may be surprised how much of our language is designed to compare and contrast terror.
posted by Errant at 12:38 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


IIRC Keristraza begs you to kill her
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:38 PM on February 2, 2011


It doesn't do, when somebody makes a joke that mocks gay people, to say, well, that joke offends me. You have to be specific. That joke is pretty thoughtless, because it belittles gay people. I'm not really a fan of homophobic jokes.

This is becoming a derail of a derail, but I would say that many people who tell homophobic jokes are either quite proud of being "un-PC" or will come up with some sort of lame excuse as to why it's not actually homophobic. The worst thing a joke can be isn't offensive - the worst thing a joke can be is unfunny. An "oh...kay." and a change of the subject ruins the experience of telling a homophobic joke and makes it much less rewarding for the future.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:39 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


When someone is perpetuating an attitude condoning sexual violence...

Ugh. They weren't doing that. They were expressly using it as an example of a horrible thing. That was the point.

Later, after the 'rape culture' crowd accused them of being cavalier about rape, they started to do just that.

So whose responsible this?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:39 PM on February 2, 2011


ChurchHatesTucker: " A less accusatory tone might be in order if you're actually interested in winning folks to your side rather than raising an enemy host to tilt against."

The phrase is less inflammatory than others which could be used in its place, like "rape apologist."

It is not non-inflammatory. Nor should it be. It describes the perpetuation of an attitude which either deliberately or inadvertently helps condone (as the wikipedia entry describes) sexualized violence.
posted by zarq at 12:39 PM on February 2, 2011


Seriously?

I mean, I get that you are probably a very smart person in real life, but you are arguing at the level of like, a really smart parakeet right now.

and

Please just stop posting.

How is this productive? How does being rude and dismissive make sense in a thread about an incident that started with people being insensitive to the feelings and humanity of a group of other people?

I mean, I am seriously perplexed by that, and this: I don't know about changing minds. I am just out to discuss my point of view using as clear and precise language as possible.

If you truly believe that someone is engaging in hurtful, anti-human behavior - which homophobia and antisemitism certain quality as - then how are you NOT out to change minds when you call someone on engaging in them?

We engage in discussion either to increase our own understanding or make our points such that we influence others. Either the person(s) we're discussing with or the people observing.

I am completely confident, Afro Zombie, in my assumption that you are not open to being convinced that antisemitism and homophobia are okay. So if that's out and you do not care if you impact behavior that you find to be wrong - exactly what are you doing?

I'd rather take steps that move the world in the direction I'd like to see it go than just listen to myself type. Sometimes that involves expressing myself in the way that's more likely to get through than simply indulging my every whim.
posted by phearlez at 12:39 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


ChurchHatesTucker: " So whose responsible this?"

You're saying accusations by other people forced them to be assholes?
posted by zarq at 12:41 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that those of us who want to have an honest discussion of issues like this need to be able to make that distinction carefully when we explain why certain actions are hurtful and bad.

I think we're actually on the same side of this issue; my own imprecision is entirely to blame. What I should've said was:
If the subject of that statement equates calling-out behavior/actions (what you're doing is a racist thing) with name-calling (you're a racist!), then there really isn't much hope for the dialogue, but that problem is the subject's, not the person who's doing the call-out.
I hope that makes more sense.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:41 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


What people are objecting to is the flip tone of the followup comments and the t-shirt, both of which were in pretty poor taste.

It was my impression that the merchandise and follow-up comments and the merchandise were made because a) the controversy simply produced relevant content for new humor, and b) to emphasize their belief that the protest was unwarranted in the first place. For those reasons and with their resources, I may have responded the same way.

Arguing with these Rape Culture fanatics reminds me exactly of arguing with Christian fundamentalists. Much of their principle notions are valid-- even vital!-- but they're steering it into all kinds of completely inappropriate interpretations, and are incorrigable and relentless when that is explained to them, so... why explain it to them?
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:42 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you truly believe that someone is engaging in hurtful, anti-human behavior - which homophobia and antisemitism certain quality as - then how are you NOT out to change minds when you call someone on engaging in them?

I can try to influence them. But some people are just jerks, and my words will bounce off. All I can to do is attempt to be as precise as possible in explaining my position. Everything else is in their hands.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:42 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


If they can't be bothered to enter a discussion in good faith, that says a lot about them then.

Perhaps, but that sort of attitude really doesn't help the discussion or even move it forward in the productive manner. Sure, that may not be one's goal and really, a person can't be expected to educate everyone on everything.

I don't know what the answer is, truthfully. I just don't think that having to do homework before entering a casual discussion and dismissive attitude if one doesn't is helpful. YMMV.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:42 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Later, after the 'rape culture' crowd accused them of being cavalier about rape, they started to do just that.

So whose responsible this?


Any question of how the first bit played out, the answer to the second bit is "it's theirs". They fucked up.

Someone accuses you of racism and you think they're off the mark? You say "you're off the mark". You don't put on blackface and start singing minstrel tunes. This is Not Totally Fucking Up 101 right here, any question of hurt feelings and misunderstandings aside.
posted by cortex at 12:43 PM on February 2, 2011 [53 favorites]


I am completely confident, Afro Zombie...

Hee.
posted by brundlefly at 12:44 PM on February 2, 2011


empath: What I mean is that it's a bad, easily misunderstood phrase outside of the academic/feminist context, and if you expect people to care about what you are saying, starting the conversation off with by saying something inflammatory that requires a visit to wikipedia to understand is probably not the best way to go about it. You should tailor your rhetoric for your audience.

Almost all of the criticism of PA here has been published on feminist blogs which have discussed the topic of rape culture to death. The original complaint doesn't even use the term "rape culture" in the body of the post. The kirbybits discussion of the shirt links directly to wikipedia and has a helpful link to a Rape Culture 101 article on the sidebar.

And both sites started off giving PA the benefit of the doubt, and focused the criticism on the strip rather than the authors.

So your argument here is that feminists writing for feminists about a feminist concept that's part of an ongoing discussion within a feminist community need to watch their tone in very specifically criticizing specific works by artists they identify as fans of?

Brandon Blatcher: I'd argue that having to do homework before responding is bound to cause not care very much about the point being made.

Lurk moar!
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:45 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


The phrase is less inflammatory than others which could be used in its place, like "rape apologist."

It is not non-inflammatory. Nor should it be. It describes the perpetuation of an attitude which either deliberately or inadvertently helps condone (as the wikipedia entry describes) sexualized violence.


Yeah, OK. Just use non-inflammatory language. That goes for everybody.

You're saying accusations by other people forced them to be assholes?

Forced? No. Likely response if you gave it a moment's thought? Yes. Isn't that what they're being accused of in the first place?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:45 PM on February 2, 2011


And now we have reached the point in the conversation where we're instructed about the vital importance of being tactful when describing offensive remarks and behavior. We shouldn't use accurate words that might wound the vanity and self-image of the people behaving like boors. Because it is the solemn responsibility of non-boors everywhere to sweetly and tolerantly educate the boors of the world, over and over and over again, about basic issues of civility that two grown adult men in their 30s or 40s might reasonably be expected to have mastered a decade or so ago: namely, not going out of your way to act like a complete jerk to people who have done you no harm.

Whereas the people who are behaving like boors and apparently make a habit of doing so, for a living, have no responsibility whatsoever to be tactful, tolerant, or bridge-building. That seems fair.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:46 PM on February 2, 2011 [20 favorites]


But some people are just jerks, and my words will bounce off. All I can to do is attempt to be as precise as possible in explaining my position. Everything else is in their hands.

I assert that the most precise description of your view of their failing is not inherently the most likely way to make them change their behavior.
posted by phearlez at 12:47 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


...these Rape Culture fanatics...

Excuse me - who?
posted by Karmakaze at 12:47 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Someone accuses you of racism and you think they're off the mark? You say "you're off the mark". You don't put on blackface and start singing minstrel tunes. This is Not Totally Fucking Up 101 right here, any question of hurt feelings and misunderstandings aside.

I think we're all agreed that the PA guys were total dicks about this. I thought the "rape culture as a phrase" discussion was a derail inside this thread about the general question of how to engage people in general. That was my understanding, at any rate.

Elsewhere...

I can try to influence them. But some people are just jerks, and my words will bounce off.

Sometimes, but on the other hand, "no relationship survives contempt." If you go into the argument thinking that the person is just plain wrong and there's no need on your part to engage them as an equal, then they will never really listen to you.

I'm going to take a walk and actually get some errands done. Be back later.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:47 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't really like antisemitic gestures like swastikas being sprayed on my car. I'm not really crazy about cartoons that seem to support rape culture.

But surely you recognize that the latter exists on a completely different plane as the former?

There is a difference between someone spraypainting swastikas and telling Jews they are not welcome, from say, some college kid telling an insensitive Jew joke to his buddies even though "it's cool man I have tons of Jewish friends."

It is by no means right to make those jokes, but when you tell that frat kid he is perpetuating anti-semitism or engaging in anti-semitic behavior, HE is going to think you are equating him to the swastika spray paint guy, and he's not going to take any of it seriously and maybe even react adversely.

I'm not saying people shouldn't be called on their shit, but they react this way for a reason - we should be used to it by now - and there has to be some way to prevent it.
posted by windbox at 12:47 PM on February 2, 2011


If they can't be bothered to enter a discussion in good faith, that says a lot about them then.

Why should they have a discussion if they don't think they are doing anything wrong?

Your goal is to change someone's behavior.

There goal is to continue living their life as they always have.

They don't want to have s discussion about rape culture. They want you to leave them alone. You can't enforce speech codes on people in the real world. So if you want to talk to someone about changing their behavior, you should probably find a way to do it in such a way that they actually will want to listen to you.
posted by empath at 12:47 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


gah.. THEIR
posted by empath at 12:48 PM on February 2, 2011


Before I go...

And now we have reached the point in the conversation where we're instructed about the vital importance of being tactful when describing offensive remarks and behavior.

Not tact - strategy!

Whereas the people who are behaving like boors and apparently make a habit of doing so, for a living, have no responsibility whatsoever to be tactful, tolerant, or bridge-building. That seems fair.

No, the ones we're talking about really were dicks.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:48 PM on February 2, 2011


Someone accuses you of racism and you think they're off the mark? You say "you're off the mark".

Is that not exactly what the second comic did? Presented sarcastically and as a comic, because they are in fact humorists and that's what they do? And it got them attacked even harder, for not immediately seeing some sort of light and apologizing for their sins?
posted by kafziel at 12:48 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I assert that the most precise description of your view of their failing is not inherently the most likely way to make them change their behavior.

From personal experience, I have never found being circumspect or sugar coating things to result in anything other than confusion. And those who aren't confused suss out what I am saying and respond exactly as they would had I been utterly forthright.

The mature ones consider what I have to say and make their decision based on their own conclusions about my comments. The immature ones respond immaturely.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:49 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someone accuses you of racism and you think they're off the mark? You say "you're off the mark". You don't put on blackface and start singing minstrel tunes. This is Not Totally Fucking Up 101 right here, any question of hurt feelings and misunderstandings aside.

This is 100% on the mark.
posted by empath at 12:50 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sometimes, but on the other hand, "no relationship survives contempt."

You keep defining honestly and clarity as contempt. We may never see eye to eye on this.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:51 PM on February 2, 2011


This is why I avoid comedy. I don't go to comedy movies, I rarely watch comedians, I avoid sitcoms like the plague.

The structure of mainstream US sitcoms almost always involves foolish dudes who are called out for their behavior by beautiful intelligent women. Occasionally they spice it up by having the foolish dudes be astrophysicists, or by having a gay couple fill the same roles. While that's sexist in its own way... if you can see rape culture in sitcoms, you can probably see it just about everywhere.
posted by miyabo at 12:51 PM on February 2, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: " Perhaps, but that sort of attitude really doesn't help the discussion or even move it forward in the productive manner. Sure, that may not be one's goal and really, a person can't be expected to educate everyone on everything.

Which is precisely my point. We shouldn't have to educate everyone on everything. They should be open-minded enough and enter into discussion here in good faith, to be willing to learn when someone mentions something they don't understand.

This is a huge topic with a ton of cultural and societal history behind it. Human history. Our culture has promoted the stereotype that women are inferior to men for centuries. The concept of rape culture is an outgrowth of that. Yet it can be described in just a couple of sentences.

I don't know what the answer is, truthfully. I just don't think that having to do homework before entering a casual discussion and dismissive attitude if one doesn't is helpful. YMMV."

I agree that we should be as helpful and as non-kneejerk-defensive as possible. But it doesn't seem unreasonable that people would look for more information if they don't know what's being discussed.
posted by zarq at 12:51 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


zarq: “When someone is perpetuating an attitude condoning sexual violence...”

ChurchHatesTucker: “Ugh. They weren't doing that. They were expressly using it as an example of a horrible thing. That was the point.”

You're assuming the point to be proved. A lot of us feel they were perpetuating that attitude.

Where we seem to be getting tripped up is: you seem to think we're accusing them of doing it intentionally. I don't know so much about everybody else, but I intended to do no such thing. You can unintentionally perpetuate bad shit. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like that's what happened here.

The point is to drop the debate about moral culpability because that really doesn't matter here. Nobody's calling Gabe and Tycho a pair of rape-mongers or something. We don't think they support rape. But things they said might perpetuate the acceptance of rape. There is a difference between saying someone perpetuated rape culture and saying someone is a rape supporter, in other words. The difference has to be that in the former case you're not accusing them of anything.
posted by koeselitz at 12:52 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


It describes the perpetuation of an attitude which either deliberately or inadvertently helps condone (as the wikipedia entry describes) sexualized violence.

I think the difference between deliberate and inadvertent is really important here. You can convey to people who may have stumbled into this that you think they made a mistake and this is why. Treating everyone as equally culpable in a situation like this, from the people who made the comic/t-shirt to the people who just didn't think it was such a big deal, just muddles everything up and makes one seem like a person who doesn't understand all sorts of nuance. I'm a fan of trying to be as laid back as possible up until the point where I think someone is bad-faith discussing something or actively doing something that is making the world a worse place to be.

Side mod note: we're not at the point in the thread where you can just tell people to fuck off, so don't do that.
Side note: Someone from the New York Times called to talk to me about female editors on Wikipedia and gender stuff and I told her about this thread and how my day was going.
posted by jessamyn at 12:53 PM on February 2, 2011 [25 favorites]


ChurchHatesTucker: "Just use non-inflammatory language. That goes for everybody. "

Sometimes it is impossible to do so, especially if (as in this case) the people you are speaking to have a history of being unwilling to acknowledge that they have done something wrong.

Again, sometimes you have to say, "That's not okay and here's why." And yes, sometimes you really do have to do so in a forceful manner.
posted by zarq at 12:56 PM on February 2, 2011


Gandhi and MLK had no responsibility to respond to violence and hate with non-violence measures. They did so because they believed it was the right thing to do and - more importantly from my down-the-road perspective - because it was more effective.

You can stomp your metaphorical foot about how we don't have to engage people being shitty in a more polite/measured/reserved/whatever tone or manner than is necessarily completely accurate and you're entirely right. Just like you're right when you say that you shouldn't have to be courteous to the police officer while asserting your constitutional rights in order to avoid getting tazed.

So what? In the choice between getting the better world/not being tazed and speaking my mind without care I will always choose the better world. The shitbags are refusing to change and make the world better. You're refusing to temper your reaction in order to make the world better.

They're being shitty but neither of you are helping to make things better. And you're the one who wants things to be better. Aren't you?
posted by phearlez at 12:56 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


You're assuming the point to be proved. A lot of us feel they were perpetuating that attitude.

Seriously? How? Because it was mentioned?

Jessamyn, Sorry. I thought it was obviously humorous given the context.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:58 PM on February 2, 2011


I am completely confident, Afro Zombie...

are we playing Residen EVil 5 or what here
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:59 PM on February 2, 2011


There will be an Afro Zombie sock puppet in the near future.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:00 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is that not exactly what the second comic did? Presented sarcastically and as a comic, because they are in fact humorists and that's what they do? And it got them attacked even harder, for not immediately seeing some sort of light and apologizing for their sins?

I don't totally disagree with the idea that the comic was an attempt at a measured response, but I think a discussion of what the second comic did is a lot more complicated than that and there's some significant differences between it and an actual de-escalating acknowledgment of a disagreement.

But (and I think I said something on this up-thread) I don't think the fucking up that the PA guys did really started in earnest until after the comics. I personally thought both comics were funny though I was cringing through the second one because it seemed like the kind of funny that was maybe picking a fight that they wouldn't want to be in if they'd actually thought it through.

The shirts and the recent frankly nutso antagonism from Gabe are the meat of the mistakes they've made, and are what I'm talking about. I'm a huge long-time PA fan, love what they do, love the community-building and charity work stuff they've managed to pull off. And, yet, look: they fucked up. They're at least tacitly continuing to fuck up right here. Whether or not their feelings are hurt or they felt unfairly chastised five months ago doesn't much come into it in practical terms re: whether or not what they have done qualifies as shitty, misguided, cred-gutting behavior.
posted by cortex at 1:00 PM on February 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


Rape culture isn't just an academic phrase. I mean, hell, antisemitism started off as an academic phrase, as did homophobia.

At this stage, "rape culture" is still academic jargon that is not understood by the general public.

I think the Penny-Arcade strip they did in response to criticism demonstrates this conclusively. It's quite clear from that comic strip that Mike & Jerry fundamentally misunderstood phrases like "rape culture". They genuinely thought people were accusing them of actually condoning rape, an accusation so terrible and so ridiculous that they literally couldn't hear anything else people were saying.

I think your comparison to the world "homophobia" is apt. I think the word "homophobia" has been a huge impediment to gay rights. It's meant to describe a cultural phenomenon, a whole bundle of prejudices, religious intolerance, social structures, and sexual hang-ups.

But many people still think it literally means "fear of homosexuals" implying the sort of panic attack an arachnophobe gets when he sees a spider. And since that's obviously nothing like most people's cultural objections to homosexuality, people using the term "homophobia" have been seen as speaking in bad faith. People who might have been open to discussing the suffering that homosexuals experience in our society instead put their energy into defending themselves against--or just dismissing and ignoring as ridiculous--what they saw as accusations of mental illness.

Rape culture is a tremendous problem in our society. But unless we find better ways to talk about it, I think most people still just aren't going to see it.
posted by straight at 1:01 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't totally disagree with the idea that the comic was an attempt at a measured response, but I think a discussion of what the second comic did is a lot more complicated than that and there's some significant differences between it and an actual de-escalating acknowledgment of a disagreement.

Yeah, I agree that their response could have/should have been way more measured. BUT, the attack on them was so totally off the wall that I'm not surprised that they were caught flat-footed and defensive.

That doesn't justify the response, necessarily, but I do think that on the outrage meter they win.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:03 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


empath: " They don't want to have s discussion about rape culture. They want you to leave them alone. You can't enforce speech codes on people in the real world. So if you want to talk to someone about changing their behavior, you should probably find a way to do it in such a way that they actually will want to listen to you."

OK, that makes sense to me.

I'm not entirely sure how sugrar-coating the message will accomplish that, though. I would think, as Astro Zombie says, it will only cause further confusion.
posted by zarq at 1:05 PM on February 2, 2011


I think your comparison to the world "homophobia" is apt. I think the word "homophobia" has been a huge impediment to gay rights

I agree it sometimes confuses people, but I'd be curious as to how you think it actually impedes progress. The word was introduced in 1969. The year of the Stonewall Riots, and almost all modern advances in the rights of LGBT have come after this year. I don't see any reason to think they would have happened faster without that word being out there, messing things up. If anything, I think a case can easily be made that he word gave clarity to the discussion, even if it did upset a few people whose behavior needed calling out.

The fact that it confuses people doesn't seem that big a deal to me. I knew a guy who was confused between the words specific and pacific. Once I realized he was confused, I clarified, and he stopped embarrassing himself in public.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:07 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


sugrar-coating

This is my favorite typo, ever.
posted by zarq at 1:07 PM on February 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


Actually, thinking more about it, there's another rape in wow that is part of the storyline:

Malygos, the crazy blue dragon, imprisons Keristrasza and makes her his lover. At the end of the dungeon she is in, you mercy kill her.


Ah, I never got that far in WotLK by the time I'd stopped playing, so thanks for adding those facts. In fairness that does change my analysis a bit. I'm not convinced the PA authors had that in mind when they wrote the strip (I don't think Tycho has played WoW in a long time), but it does suggest that the idea of rape was not wholly imported into the strip from outside the WoW context. Consequently the sexual violence element of the strip is closer to a fair criticism of the absurdity of WoW game mechanics.

Still, all of that is, as others have said, independent of how PA handled the fallout from the strip.
posted by jedicus at 1:11 PM on February 2, 2011


I'm not entirely sure how sugrar-coating the message will accomplish that, though.

I think Jessamyn had the right general attitude, i.e. being laid back about it, until one doesn't have to be or can't be. You can always escalate things later, but stepping down from inflammatory tone or confrontation is much harder.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:12 PM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: " I think Jessamyn had the right general attitude, i.e. being laid back about it, until one doesn't have to be or can't be. You can always escalate things later, but stepping down from inflammatory tone or confrontation is much harder."

This is true. As personal experience has taught me.

Well put.
posted by zarq at 1:14 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


The structure of mainstream US sitcoms almost always involves foolish dudes who are called out for their behavior by beautiful intelligent women. Occasionally they spice it up by having the foolish dudes be astrophysicists, or by having a gay couple fill the same roles. While that's sexist in its own way... if you can see rape culture in sitcoms, you can probably see it just about everywhere.
Are you saying that rape culture doesn't turn up in sitcoms? 'cause, well, it does. The most recent one I can think of (and it's why I now leave the room when #$% My Dad Says comes on) had the foolish dude blackmailed into going onto a date, where he was locked in a room and held down (after trying frantically to leave twice) before the fade to black. The next scene, he stumbles in, clearly traumatized. But, hee! It's funny 'cause the woman was the aggressor! (*retch*)
posted by Karmakaze at 1:14 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's quite clear from that comic strip that Mike & Jerry fundamentally misunderstood phrases like "rape culture". They genuinely thought people were accusing them of actually condoning rape, an accusation so terrible and so ridiculous that they literally couldn't hear anything else people were saying.

Yeah, that's why 'rape culture' is such a bad neologism. People not involved in rape academia have no idea that it's apparently supposed to mean something other than it means on its face. So bad.
posted by felix at 1:14 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Man, that Dickwolves t-shirt is awesome. Hurray for new desktop wallpaper!
posted by xedrik at 1:18 PM on February 2, 2011


I find this idea that "being aware of the best way to communicate an idea to someone who might have an inclination to not listen (such as being defensive)" is the same as sugercoating to be kind of weird. Do you guys never have to do any conflict resolution with your jobs? Your families? I have to do all types of that stuff and you can phrase the same message in ways that encourage or discourage listening. It's not changing the content.

In this case, I think some groups feel free to make jokes about rape because in their minds their jokes have no intersection with reality. There are vast groups of people who believe that intent should have everything to do with determining whether something is offensive. The thing is, from within that viewpoint, the logic seems totally sound. To introduce the idea that their intent is not, actually, the crucial matter, you have to explain to to them why a broader viewpoint is better, not why their logic is broken. And starting that discussion with how awful they are is not a good road.

The message is the same. Getting people to listen to things they're disinclined to listen to is a super, super useful skill.
posted by neuromodulator at 1:22 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Clearly the original joke should have had the Dickwolves biting off ("wolfing down", if you will) the slaves' dicks instead.
posted by whuppy at 1:22 PM on February 2, 2011


People who perpetuate [X] culture typically do so not as a deliberate act, but because [X] culture informs their worldview somehow.

Worldviews are complex. They're made of zillions of assumptions about how things work, what things mean, what things are parts of what other things, and so forth. It's very, very easy to miss a key assumption that someone else has made, and because of that, offend them by accident. This happens all the time in comment threads.

I'm certain that, from Mike's perspective, making the Dickwolves shirt was just a way of taking a conversation that had gotten absurd and bringing it over the top. For comedy. He didn't recognize the implications, because his worldview didn't include the rather subtle concept of "rape minimization".

The solution is - or would have been - to teach him that concept, so that he could recognize the implications. Only then, only after he fully comprehends the concept, will it be beneficial to say, "You are supporting rape minimization culture". Otherwise he'll assume you mean something that makes sense to him.

There's no need to sugar-coat anything. What's needed is timing. The person whose mind you want to change will only be receptive in the correct context. Figure out what context that is; set it up; and then criticize, precisely, thoroughly.
posted by LogicalDash at 1:26 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


felix: " Yeah, that's why 'rape culture' is such a bad neologism. People not involved in rape academia have no idea that it's apparently supposed to mean something other than it means on its face. So bad."

I highly doubt this is the case. I'm certainly not "in rape academia" and not only know what it means but have seen the phrase used for years. As I mentioned earlier, the topic has come up repeatedly on Metafilter for at least the last couple of years. The phrase (or concept) has been raised again and again on feminist discussion websites and in numerous non-scholarly news articles and editorials about rape, violence and related stereotypes.
posted by zarq at 1:26 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree [the word homophobia] sometimes confuses people, but I'd be curious as to how you think it actually impedes progress.

When I look, for instance, at people in the more conservative Christian circles who are starting to change their stance on homosexuality, they are almost always moved, not by some realization that their "homophobic" attitudes are wrong, but by compassion for the ordeal of homosexual people that they have come to know.

The word "homophobia" seems to put the emphasis of the struggle on getting people to acknowledge their wrong attitudes, repent of their sins. When what seems to actually work is a more positive approach, helping people to see homosexuals as people and not as The Other. The struggle should not be "fighting homophobia" but "widening the circle of people we see as human." I don't have a pithy phrase for it, but surely one might have arisen if we hadn't settled on "homophobia" as the rallying cry.

But then it's always easier to hate your enemies and call them names than it is to make them your friends.
posted by straight at 1:28 PM on February 2, 2011


Yeah, that's why 'rape culture' is such a bad neologism. People not involved in rape academia have no idea that it's apparently supposed to mean something other than it means on its face. So bad.

Rape culture is a powerful and accurate neologism that pretty much means exactly what you would think it mean on the face of it. I hate the phrase does what it says on the tin, but yeah, rape culture does what it says on the tin. I don't agree with your criticism of the term.
posted by jsturgill at 1:29 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Postscript: Mike is being a dick and not listening to anybody, so I don't think there's anything to be done in this particular case. Perhaps if someone had gotten to him right after the original comic, it would have done, but I think the only people who could do that are his wife and his co-author.
posted by LogicalDash at 1:31 PM on February 2, 2011


Oh for fuck's sake:

straight: At this stage, "rape culture" is still academic jargon that is not understood by the general public.

That's nice. The original complaints were not addressed to the general public. Nor were they addressed to the authors of Penny Arcade. They were addressed to moderated feminist communities with a long history of discussing rape culture.

straight: I think your comparison to the world "homophobia" is apt. I think the word "homophobia" has been a huge impediment to gay rights. It's meant to describe a cultural phenomenon, a whole bundle of prejudices, religious intolerance, social structures, and sexual hang-ups.

Sure, which is why I don't use homophobia in talking to heterosexual people who don't have a history with these discussions. Although the alternative of "anti-gay prejudice" is likely to also draw criticism from tone scolds on the grounds that criticizing a joke is equivalent to accusing a person of anti-gay violence. I certainly will use the word "homophobia" on moderated feminist communities where that concept is likely to be understood.

I categorically disagree every discussion on every site in the big wild Internet must use the same language and jargon for fear of potentially being misunderstood by people unwilling to read the TOS, about page, and background links.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:31 PM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm certainly not "in rape academia" and not only know what it means but have seen the phrase used for years.

Yeah, neither am I, and I have very rarely run across it.

Feel free to wield it, but be aware that most people will have no frakin' idea what you're on about.

See above.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:33 PM on February 2, 2011


straight: But then it's always easier to hate your enemies and call them names than it is to make them your friends.

Yes, let's just ignore the fact that both of the complaints expressed appreciation for PA's general body of work while explaining why a particular joke fell flat.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:36 PM on February 2, 2011


KirkJobSluder, the third comment in this thread is someone responding with confusion to the phrase "rape culture."

And whether or not it was that specific term that caused the problem, Mike and Jerry's follow-up comic shows the exact same utter misunderstanding of what exactly people were so upset about.

That's what happened. I'm not blaming feminists for using the word "rape culture" on their feminist blogs. I was talking about what caused the whole blow-up and speculating on how we can work toward a world where this kind of thing doesn't happen.
posted by straight at 1:38 PM on February 2, 2011


ChurchHatesTucker: Feel free to wield it, but be aware that most people will have no frakin' idea what you're on about.

Well, you know, if you're coming to a moderated feminist blog perhaps you should, I dunno, follow the helpful links in the sidebar and lurk for a bit before jumping to conclusions about how a person may or may not be using a particular term?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:39 PM on February 2, 2011


I just want to flatly say: I think saying someone is "perpetuating rape culture" is probably the least offensive and most depersonalized way I can think of to bring up to them the fact that something they said was hurtful. I accept that it's sometimes a bitter pill to swallow, but there's no way to sugarcoat it any further.

The point of saying that someone is "perpetuating rape culture" is that it's not necessarily intentional. Please think about the options here. You could say they're supporting rape; but that's really being inflammatory, because it's implying that (a) it was intentional and (b) that it's rape itself, and not the culture surrounding its legitimization, that's being perpetuated.

"This comic perpetuates rape culture" is specifically an impersonal, qualified statement about the impact (not the intent) of the comic, and that's why it's the best way to point it out.

I know that when you hear that kind of thing, you're apt to jump to the conclusion that you're being accused of something terrible. The word "rape" used in a serious way there tends to worry a lot of people, and when people are worried they often leap to conclusions. But I think the counter-accusations that there was some sort of "accusatory tone" in the responses to the comic are missing the point. It is true that making light of rape tends to perpetuate it. By saying that, we aren't saying that the cartoonists are rapists, or that they support or condone rape. We're just trying to say the truth, in the clearest and least inflammatory way possible.
posted by koeselitz at 1:40 PM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


And, I'm sorry, KJB, I didn't mean that as an attack on the specific people who were responding to Mike's insensitivity. I was commenting on the general human tendency to couch these struggles in negative terms ("fighting homphobia") instead of positive ones ("helping people to acknowledge the fundamental humanity of people who are homosexuals").
posted by straight at 1:41 PM on February 2, 2011


I'm a little surprised that no one has mentioned what an absolute shit-heel Scott Kurtz is being in this, as well.

(For the uninitiated, Scott Kurtz is the writer and artist of the somewhat popular webcomic PvP. He is good friends with Mike and Jerry, and sometime last year he and Kris Straub (another artist, silent on this issue AFAIK) actually moved into the Penny Arcade offices. I'm not sure of the corporate relationship, but it is not a stretch to say that Kurtz is a member of the PA family.)

His twitter feed has been replete with posts that are actually worse than anything that Mike and Jerry have doing, interspersed with appeals to allies to tone down rhetoric and to opponents to treat him more nicely.

It's like a seminar in using one's position of influence to troll as hard as possible.
posted by TypographicalError at 1:42 PM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


Pope Guilty, if I was faced with the frothing bad faith rage you've displayed in this thread, and I had absolute creative freedom, and I was kind of an asshole I'd probably behave just like Mike.

I mean it's grist to the fucking mill, man.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:42 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, you know, if you're coming to a moderated feminist blog perhaps you should, I dunno, follow the helpful links in the sidebar and lurk for a bit before jumping to conclusions about how a person may or may not be using a particular term?

And what if I was just doing a webcomic on my own blog?

I just want to flatly say: I think saying someone is "perpetuating rape culture" is probably the least offensive and most depersonalized way I can think of to bring up to them the fact that something they said was hurtful.

Yeah, do some more thinking. That's not helping anybody.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:43 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, you know, if you're coming to a moderated feminist blog perhaps you should, I dunno, follow the helpful links in the sidebar and lurk for a bit before jumping to conclusions about how a person may or may not be using a particular term?

This sounds like work.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:44 PM on February 2, 2011


The Penny Arcade guys are assholes. Maybe some folks out there didn't know that, and assumed the charity thing defined their character. Well, now you know. They are assholes. Always have been, just like a huge portion of the male multiplayer gaming world.

I guess I'm just surprised that so many people who seem to read PA didn't know that 1) male multiplayer gamers use the word "rape" to mean success and are completely desensitized to it, and 2) if they find they've offended you, that is also considered success and they will then move on to trolling you till the world ends.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:45 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, do some more thinking. That's not helping anybody.

Help us out, then. What would you say? What would your magic words be?
posted by TypographicalError at 1:46 PM on February 2, 2011


Probably good that I missed the meat of this thread, but one point bothered me...

(I'll respond to Cortex as having reasonably thick skin, but several have made similar points)

Cortex : I sure as shit think they would have been better off picking up on the immediate negative feedback and letting the Dickwolves stuff drop after the initial comic as a "welp, that didn't go over great" thing. Followup comic was questionable, Dickwolves jersey was just plain stupid. It's not surprising they're seeing backlash now; their handling was terrible regardless of their initial intent.

I respectfully disagree. They responded to a minority voice criticizing their brand of humor by escalating... Not always the best tactic, but a perfectly viable one. In the realm of humor, I would go so far as to call it the default way to deal with hecklers... "Oh, look, the lady in the front row with the beehive hairdo doesn't like my Marge Simpson references, surprise surprise!"

Does it make them appear dickish? Yes and no... Yes, they antagonized their opponents, certainly not the modern Sensitive & Enlightened™ approach. But seriously, how much humor would stay funny if the comedian gave a five minute heartfelt apology after every 30 second joke? And I can answer that - Have you ever squirmed through your favorite comedian doing a telethon? Yeah. That funny.
posted by pla at 1:46 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


His twitter feed has been replete with posts that are actually worse than anything that Mike and Jerry have doing...

Eh, everyone should take a day off and calm down. There's no good that can come of this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:48 PM on February 2, 2011


ChurchHatesTucker: “Yeah, do some more thinking. That's not helping anybody.”

So how the hell can you say it? Seriously, the purpose of the phrase "rape culture" is to talk about the inadvertent, unintentional, cultural aspects of rape. That's inherent in the phrase itself, I think. So what more can you do to say you don't mean something's intentional than to point toward "rape culture"?

I see that it's good not to have an "accusatory tone" in all this. I'm merely pointing out that, in this circumstance, it's pretty clear to me that Gabe and Tycho saw "accusations" where there were really just expressed concerns. There is a difference.
posted by koeselitz at 1:50 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the realm of humor, I would go so far as to call it the default way to deal with hecklers...

Firstly, criticism and heckling are worlds apart. Not even the same thing at all. In fact, I might go so far as to say that conflating the two is deliberate obtuseness in service of making a stupid point.

Secondly, In the realm of stand up, it is the default way to deal with hecklers. Stand up is 100% different from other sorts of comedy in that it is a performance art, and hecklers intrude on the performance. In written or drawn comedy, a heckler cannot interfere with others' enjoyment at all.

Seriously, you are just completely off the mark with this argument.
posted by TypographicalError at 1:51 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


His twitter feed has been replete with posts that are actually worse than anything that Mike and Jerry have doing

Wow, really regret clicking through those twitter feeds, especially the teamrape one.
Really not feeling like I am a member of the same world that these people occupy.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:54 PM on February 2, 2011


2007: Peer to Peer traffic is between 50-95 percent of all internet traffic.
2007: Youtube 10 percent of all internet traffic.
2010: Netflix 20 percent of all internet traffic.
2011: Dickwolf controversy 80 percent of all internet traffic.
posted by jscott at 1:56 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think "rape culture" is an unhelpful term because it's too vague. If the problem with the comic was that it tapped into gamer culture's tendency to inject sexual violence into everything, say that.

It would be great if people were level-headed enough to respond to "You are perpetuating rape culture" with "Really? How?" but it just isn't so.
posted by LogicalDash at 1:57 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I respectfully disagree. They responded to a minority voice criticizing their brand of humor by escalating... Not always the best tactic, but a perfectly viable one.

Viable as a comedy tactic if we're talking comedy qua comedy. Viable as a way to successfully interact with a large, varied fanbase and convention-going public, no. Penny Arcade is a lot bigger at this point than the comic strip Mike and Jerry upload three times a week; they're active in charity, the run what is pretty much those most respected gamer con in the United States, and they've got an army of forumgoing fans.

Which means they've got a reputation to consider and a responsibility as community leaders. Viable as a "The Aristocrats!" approach to a comedy bit may be, as an approach to either of those extra-comedic aspects of what they do it is disastrously, embarrassingly non-viable and they really need to figure that shit out going forward if they don't want to scrap a whole lot of the good will they've managed to build up over the last few years.
posted by cortex at 1:59 PM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


ChurchHatesTucker: And what if I was just doing a webcomic on my own blog?

Your blog. Your language. Your rules.

Her blog. Her language. Her rules.

Brandon Blatcher: This sounds like work.

To me, it sounds like basic courtesy when I'm considering participating in a new community.

straight: And, I'm sorry, KJB, I didn't mean that as an attack on the specific people who were responding to Mike's insensitivity. I was commenting on the general human tendency to couch these struggles in negative terms ("fighting homphobia") instead of positive ones ("helping people to acknowledge the fundamental humanity of people who are homosexuals").

My counter-question is to what degree are members of groups expected to dumb down their language and exercise self-censorship on explicitly issue-centered blogs and communities? Fundamentally that's what the tone argument presented here demands.

There's certainly a time and place to set aside pain and anger, to ditch phrases like "rape culture" in order to build a common understanding. I don't think that moderated feminist blogs and communities are the place to do so. And in fact, demanding that people who are quite understandably deeply angry about rape and rape jokes take the high road strikes me as a big problem.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:02 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Which means they've got a reputation to consider and a responsibility as community leaders. Viable as a "The Aristocrats!" approach to a comedy bit may be, as an approach to either of those extra-comedic aspects of what they do it is disastrously, embarrassingly non-viable and they really need to figure that shit out going forward if they don't want to scrap a whole lot of the good will they've managed to build up over the last few years.


See if you want a one paragraph explanation of everything Mike's done, here it is.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:04 PM on February 2, 2011


ARGH this thread is already nearly unreadable, and now I have to try to say this in only an hour before work but it has to be said now if there's going to be any chance that someone will actually read it....

1. Penny Arcade has made jokes like this many times. They just hit upon a combination of offensive images this time that hit someone's DISMAY button. I'm sure you could find worse stuff if you went through their archives looking for stuff to be offended by. The guys are ultimately a product of FPS gamer culture, which is mostly irreverent, juvenile and offensive. I don't play hardly any online FPSes, but from what little exposure to them I've had, I've heard trash talk that makes this look mild, and I have not heard an awful lot of condemnation of that from them. Remind me what exactly teabagging is supposed to represent, again?

2. Pope Guilty: Bullshit. The whole point of the Team Dickwolves shirt is to mock and bait people who find rape jokes offensive.

Not accurate, although it's understandable how one could see this after the context of disdain arose around it. Penny Arcade's shirts (and in fact, the shirts of most popular web comics) tend to just vaguely refer to something in the strip so people who see it can feel included and important. The strip was somewhat popular; that's why the shirt was made. It's not particularly brilliant, but I don't think they're reason to assume they were trying to antagonize with it.

3. The personal angle:
When you engage in improvisation, you don't have a lot of time to edit. Once in a while in class I've been known to make an improvised joke or two. There was a time in a class a few years ago where I made a joke that wasn't even about rape, just mentioned it, and brought the room to DEAD TEN SECOND SILENCE. Not exactly a high point in my own comedy or my life, I have to say, and I'll certainly never make a joke that mentions rape again. PLEASE save your condemnations, I've already thought about this one far too much.

I bring it up because the situation seems very similar to Gabe's situation with the dickwolves strip. I visit a lot of gamer websites and forums, and jokes like that proliferate there, really neither my unfortunate remark nor the PA strip in question come close to some of the jokes out there. Gamer culture is full of this kind of thing, and Penny Arcade is possibly the side of it that looks closest towards the mainstream. This was bound to happen before long, and Gabe seems defensive not just because he's defending himself, but because in his mind he's defending gamer culture too, and all the fun times he's had with his friends in which these jokes have flown back and forth. (It should be noted that the rape jokes in gamer culture are mostly male-on-male. Although if you bring 4chan into this all bets are off.)

What am I trying to say here? Nothing except what I've said. I am just trying to provide insight into motive and response. I've been writing this comment for an hour and that's my self-imposed time limit to writing a single Metafilter comment, especially when it's already up to nearly 600 comments since the last time I refreshed the front page this morning.
posted by JHarris at 2:06 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


koeselitz, I think your perspective on this is skewed by not seeing the other definitions of "rape culture" that can be easily interpreted from the phrase.
Yes, the academic term and the "common" usage in feminist discussions is clear to anyone who bothers to look it up. Most people would not. In fact, if I were to use the term "consumerist culture", there would be just as much confusion, since the phrase is seen by different parties as either good or bad, depending on your particular world view. If you look up "consumerist culture" you can end up with 2 very opposite definitions. One is a culture of consumerist, meaning a culture made up of consumerists. The other is a culture where consumerism is prominent. Do you see the difference? One is the culture made up of a pronoun. Consumerist. One is a culture where an idea, consumerism, is prominent. See the symantic difference? Now apply that to the phrase "rape culture". A culture of rap(e)ists? Or a culture where rape is prominent? Yes, the second definition is the "correct" and academically proper, and for that matter, the only "real" definition there is. However, the confusion is very basic and very simple. This is where every thing hinges. It is like 2 groups speaking 2 different languages that have similar sounding words, almost.

But that's just what I'm seeing from reading this whole thread. I think Logical Dash said it best about making sure you are both talking about the same thing first, i.e. timing.

On a complete aside: what would make this "better"? I think everyone is just going to have to accept that, well, they aren't going to like each other and that sucks but that's life. As it stands now, both parties are just going to escalate.

Also, man, I thought I was bad about talking in jargon. Feminist blogs make me feel like I use penny words when they are spending $5 a sentence.
posted by daq at 2:06 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


In the realm of humor, I would go so far as to call it the default way to deal with hecklers...

In comedy, a lot of times you'll tell jokes and nobody will laugh. This happens to everybody, especially when you're trying new stuff, and it happens to everybody, even famous people. At that point, you can either think 'Well, that needs work', or you can go off on your audience about how hilarious that is and how they suck.

The second approach might make you feel better about yourself for a little bit, but your jokes don't get any better. Also, it might work if it's one or two people who don't like your stuff, and you can turn the crowd against them, but pissing off the entire crowd is a good way to bomb.
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:07 PM on February 2, 2011


cortex: I introduced The Aristocrats as an example of something different. When called on his gaffe, Gottfried didn't apologize, explain, or go into a monologue about how New Yorkers lack a sense of humor about terrorism jokes. He just changed the subject and made a brilliant recovery.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:08 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I see that it's good not to have an "accusatory tone" in all this. I'm merely pointing out that, in this circumstance, it's pretty clear to me that Gabe and Tycho saw "accusations" where there were really just expressed concerns. There is a difference.

I think the initial 'concerns' were plenty accusatory.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:08 PM on February 2, 2011


Also, man, I thought I was bad about talking in jargon. Feminist blogs make me feel like I use penny words when they are spending $5 a sentence.

I know. So uppity.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:12 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


His twitter feed has been replete with posts that are actually worse than anything that Mike and Jerry have doing, interspersed with appeals to allies to tone down rhetoric and to opponents to treat him more nicely.

Not even. And bethysphere's irrationality and personal attacks deserves much harsher treatment than Kurtz has thrown back. I have to respect Kurtz' game attempts to have a rational discussion with her, futile as they may be.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 2:12 PM on February 2, 2011


My counter-question is to what degree are members of groups expected to dumb down their language and exercise self-censorship on explicitly issue-centered blogs and communities? Fundamentally that's what the tone argument presented here demands.

Yes, and that's why I think Mike got so -

Oh, you weren't talking about Penny Arcade?
posted by Sebmojo at 2:13 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Threeway Handshake,
Thanks for the condemnation, but I meant that I had to look up a lot of background to even understand several references to subjects I was not familiar with. "Rape culture" being the least of them. Sadly, most of my feminist reading is at least 10 years out of date.

However, your comment did illicit a nice spike in anger. I know you didn't mean any offense (I hope), however I am going to CALL YOU OUT on a seriously bad attempt at humor.
posted by daq at 2:16 PM on February 2, 2011


cortex : Which means they've got a reputation to consider and a responsibility as community leaders. Viable as a "The Aristocrats!" approach to a comedy bit may be, as an approach to either of those extra-comedic aspects of what they do it is disastrously, embarrassingly non-viable

Fair point, but I suppose that gets us to the question of whether they consider themselves comic writers that do good, or social workers that write comic strips.

Personally, I used to like Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Bill Murray, etc.


Comrade_robot : At that point, you can either think 'Well, that needs work', or you can go off on your audience about how hilarious that is and how they suck.

What do you do when most of the audience laughs, but you just happen to have the Pope attending and have a lineup consisting mostly of Catholic jokes?
posted by pla at 2:16 PM on February 2, 2011


LogicalDash: “I think "rape culture" is an unhelpful term because it's too vague. If the problem with the comic was that it tapped into gamer culture's tendency to inject sexual violence into everything, say that.”

"You're tapping into gamer culture's tendency to inject sexual violence into everything." I can see that that's a good way to say it. But I am skeptical that it would have gotten around this debacle.

“It would be great if people were level-headed enough to respond to "You are perpetuating rape culture" with "Really? How?" but it just isn't so.”

The trouble is that it isn't an easy thing to hear. It isn't nice to hear that you might be perpetuating something ugly. And people are going to be put off if you tell them that, even if it's true. At a certain point, there's really nothing more we can do to push people to be level-headed in their response to our confronting this kind of thing. There is unfortunately no way to force someone else to be level-headed.

Again, I don't think you can sugarcoat this in a way that makes it pleasant. It's just always going to make people uncomfortable to hear that they're part of the problem. Always.

I remember a while ago in a metafilter argument, when I started talking a lot about the evolution and usage of the n-word, and how it became as offensive as it is, and how the power isn't in the word itself but the racism it represents. And I kept using that word. And after a while, someone asked me, as nicely as they could, to please stop using that word, as it was really hurting them to have to read it over and over again, and it seemed manipulative to them that I'd cause them pain like that. And it really pissed me off to hear that. It pissed me off that they'd accuse me of racism, that they'd imply that I was casually using the word without knowing where it came from, etc. Except – when I stopped to think, I realized they were doing no such thing. They weren't accusing me of racism. They weren't saying I used the word casually without thinking. All they said was that it hurt, and that they'd rather I stopped and thought before using it.

So I know how this feels. It's not fun to be told that something you've said was hurtful. It feels like you're being accused. It feels like you're being called out. But I also think that experience – the experience of stopping and thinking about the impact of the things you say – is a necessary one. No amount of careful kindness can make that initial jolt of discomfort with being called out any easier. The only thing that helps these situations is self-reflection and thoughtful dialogue.
posted by koeselitz at 2:17 PM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


cortex: I introduced The Aristocrats as an example of something different.

Yeah, I wasn't meaning it as a comment on your comment, just reaching for a ready example of over-the-top schtick, to be clear.
posted by cortex at 2:18 PM on February 2, 2011


Remind me what exactly teabagging is supposed to represent, again?

You're a newb and your sorry ass has been pawned (Probably Safe for Work).
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:21 PM on February 2, 2011


Oh, you weren't talking about Penny Arcade?

Sure, I'll argue that Mike is bound by the same rules of engagement. He can publish what he wants and take his critical lumps. And people should be familiar with the body of work before criticizing PA as a whole.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:22 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


pla: What do you do when most of the audience laughs, but you just happen to have the Pope attending and have a lineup consisting mostly of Catholic jokes?

Tell them anyway. If the Pope doesn't like it, well, good for him, he's entitled to his opinion.

Offensive humor is offensive, guys. People taking offense should be an expected consequence.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:28 PM on February 2, 2011


What do you do when most of the audience laughs, but you just happen to have the Pope attending and have a lineup consisting mostly of Catholic jokes?
posted by pla at 5:16 PM on February 2 [+] [!]


Then my Catholic jokes better be good enough that the Pope thinks they're hilarious.
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:34 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Heheheheheh. Dickwolves.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:35 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not accurate, although it's understandable how one could see this after the context of disdain arose around it. Penny Arcade's shirts (and in fact, the shirts of most popular web comics) tend to just vaguely refer to something in the strip so people who see it can feel included and important. The strip was somewhat popular; that's why the shirt was made. It's not particularly brilliant, but I don't think they're reason to assume they were trying to antagonize with it.


Usually okay, right, but this time it was done afteret the issue in quesstion became an issesue and This t0shirt in particular ywas released as a fuck-you to those who took iusssue.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:37 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


2. Pope Guilty: Bullshit. The whole point of the Team Dickwolves shirt is to mock and bait people who find rape jokes offensive.

Not accurate, although it's understandable how one could see this after the context of disdain arose around it.


No, Pope Guilty is right. Like I said, I was in the room when Mike drew the full dickwolf during the make-a-strip panel at this last PAX, and when they announced the dickwolf T-shirt. It was entirely as reaction to the raised objections, and it was entirely to bait the objectors. The request to draw it was couched as "we support you, not them, can we see the whole thing?" The announcement of the shirt was to wild applause and was couched as "fuck you, oversensitive pricks, have a T-shirt". I'm as big a PA fan as anyone, so I'm not coming at this from some place of offense or rancor: they were absolutely mocking the objectors and objections, and it was super fucked up.

It doesn't take an education in rape academia to understand that the topic of rape is incredibly sensitive and serious. Does that mean you can't ever make a rape joke? I don't personally think so, although others disagree. This is a Louis CK bit that qualifies as a rape joke, at least to me. I think it is funny and I don't think it perpetuates rape culture.

So it doesn't take a genius to understand that rape is sensitive, although it might take a genius to make a good joke about it. I think one of the hangups here is that a person doesn't have to be wrong to be hurtful, nor does a person have to admit wrongdoing to admit hurting someone. It's a big complex world, and I might say something that makes sense but that injures someone. I don't have to think that I was wrong to say what I said to understand that what I said was hurtful, and the proof that it was hurtful is that someone got hurt.

Apologizing for hurting someone is not the same thing as admitting that you shouldn't have said something, nor is it an admission of guilt or moral failing. We're people in the world; we're going to hurt other people. You can take that to the bank. While it's nice to avoid it as much as possible, the really important bit is how you act once you learn you've hurt someone. You can apologize for the injury, inadvertent though it is, and try not to next time, or you can just keep stabbing.
posted by Errant at 2:37 PM on February 2, 2011 [14 favorites]


Well! As a female victim of a sexual assault (many, many years ago) who attends PAX and self-identifies as a feminist and a gamer, I feel uniquely qualified to respond to a post on MeFi for pretty much the first time ever.

I actually defended the original dickwolves comic to people who were upset by it. The core of the joke as I saw it -- that MMO players have a callous disregard for anything not listed in their quest -- was funny and true, even if I'm kind of leery of jokes about rape. The follow-up comic, the blog posts, and the t-shirt, though, have really put it over the line for me.

I'm not a huge fan of the current 'rape culture' and 'trigger' feminist school of thought, but I think that's not really the point here. The point is that gamer culture has been INCREDIBLY homogeneous for many years, and the guys behind Penny Arcade in particular have been quite vociferous about helping to invite others to the gamer table. Regardless of what they think they're doing, this reaction and particularly those shirts are just going to alienate more women from a community that they really have only just started to participate in fully.

The welcoming of women, non-whites, and non-straights to the gaming scene is still pretty fragile and should be handled with care, and the PA guys should have the sense to put that over defending their own egos. Basically they've sided with the Internet dickwads on this one, which is kind of confusing and really disappointing.
posted by jess at 2:37 PM on February 2, 2011 [32 favorites]


Which Pope are we talking about? Because if it's Stephen VI, pretty much anything goes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:38 PM on February 2, 2011


"Rape culture"? Was never used in the Shakespeare's Sister post that prompted the second, sneering strip.

In fact, it was very, very much a "how I feel" sort of response. So all this conversation about how the obscure and damning language ("rape culture") and $5 dollar words or whatever elicited such a freaked out response from PA which is btw perfectly understandable using those big mean words? — That never happened.
posted by taz at 2:44 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


However, your comment did illicit a nice spike in anger. I know you didn't mean any offense (I hope), however I am going to CALL YOU OUT on a seriously bad attempt at humor.

Perhaps it would go over better in T-Shirt form?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:45 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, my response to the original complaints about the article might have been exactly the same as those of the PA guys. I would have done it not out of spite, but rather to show that a) the original joke wasn't worth complaining about, and b) that no matter how hard you try, you're going to come in contact with things that offend you, and the onus is on you, not others to deal with that.

Finally, I would have pointed them at this Robert Heinlein quote from Stranger in a Strange Land:

“I've found out why people laugh. They laugh because it hurts... because it's the only thing that'll make it stop hurting.”

Good comedy is, and always will be, offensive.
posted by mrPalomar72 at 2:46 PM on February 2, 2011


Pope Guilty: "This t0shirt in particular ywas released as a fuck-you to those who took iusssue."

kinda early to be drinking that heavily, homeboy.
posted by boo_radley at 2:46 PM on February 2, 2011


There will be an Afro Zombie sock puppet in the near future.

I do hope that its first official act will be a George Clinton / Parliament / Funkadelic post, because we could do with one of those. It's impossible to listen to that stuff and not be happy.
posted by Grangousier at 2:47 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


ChurchHatesTucker: “I think the initial 'concerns' were plenty accusatory.”

Maybe I'm missing it. I've read over the initial responses, and none of them seemed that way. Could you give me a few examples of accusatory language in those responses?
posted by koeselitz at 2:47 PM on February 2, 2011


No amount of careful kindness can make that initial jolt of discomfort with being called out any easier. The only thing that helps these situations is self-reflection and thoughtful dialogue.

You're right (to an extent) that the initial jolt is always there. But see, "sugercoating", as people seem to insist on using, is part of the "thoughtful dialogue", and that is on both parties. Maybe you can't soothe the initial jolt, but you can help set the tone for the discussion that follows - and you can control how defensively people react to something (again, to some extent).

It's like saying "you're part of the problem". That's very rarely going to get people to listen; it's mostly going to get their backs up. I could tell you why "you're part of the problem" without ever using those words. I could talk about how it affects people to hear such-and-such, and how I understand that there's the context you meant something in, and I can appreciate that it seems like that should matter, but that the problem is that you can't control other peoples' contexts, and for some people those contexts involve really, really horrible things. Same message, right? "This is horrible and I'd like it to stop."

I guess for me sugercoating has a connotation of deception or omission. Like, "sugercoating" a break-up would involve the ole', "It's not you, it's me," thing. A connotation of deception to make things easier. I'm not talking, in the above example, about leaving anything out, or misdirection. I'm talking about recognizing when that initial jolt is going to put people in a defensive state, and ways you can actually help people through that and back to communication. Do other people not share that idea of what "sugercoating" is? Is this my own misinterpretation?
posted by neuromodulator at 2:49 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Kind of late but...
Wouldn't saying that 'normalisation of rape' (which is bullshit, jokes discussing it as a bad thing are hardly normalising it) is what causes rape sort of indicate that you can't make jokes about race or racism, 'cause we're past racism now and discussing it is what causes it?!

I mean, for fuck's sake I wish people would grow up and realise that they might take offense at something but that's that. Move on, realise the person isn't being malicious and pick your fucking battles.

Good on Mike and Jerry for not taking this response seriously!
posted by opsin at 2:49 PM on February 2, 2011


Aside from my previous contention that "rape culture" is a perfectly fine and clear term, there is another aspect that might be worth bringing up. Any confusion that the term might have caused initially in no way explains the months of crazy that followed. That kind of confusion gets cleared up in a matter of minutes, not days and weeks.

Somewhere in these links (forget where) I found a blog post that I think makes some good points about how these sorts of discussions tend to go wrong. "Well, That’s Really Interesting, But Have You Perhaps Considered The Status Quo? Just My Two Cents." Interesting read. One of the best thoughts in there is about the way (defensive, usually male) outsiders question feminists' assumptions:
Here is the thing, okay? Coming into a feminist conversation with, “Have you considered that sometimes [terms like "rape culture" are not immediately understood by the layperson]?” is like walking into graduate school during Philosophy finals and saying, “Have you considered that the color blue that I see may not be the color blue that you see?”
In case it's not quite clear, I replaced the original point with one related to this thread (in brackets).
posted by jsturgill at 2:50 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


mrPalomar72: “... no matter how hard you try, you're going to come in contact with things that offend you, and the onus is on you, not others to deal with that.”

I dispute that you actually agree with what you're claiming here, which seems to be that we don't have responsibility for the things we say, and that words don't have power.

If your sister or your mother or your daughter had experienced sexual assault – would you make jokes about rape, saying it was on them to deal with their feelings about your jokes? Maybe I'm wrong, but I have a strong feeling that you wouldn't. My sense is that you'd actually take some responsibility for their feelings, making an effort not to be insensitive to them.
posted by koeselitz at 2:53 PM on February 2, 2011


ten pounds of inedita: "And bethysphere's irrationality and personal attacks deserves much harsher treatment than Kurtz has thrown back."

@bethysphere writes "@pvponline You can speak out against these things. That's not silencing - that's empowering."

In the duration between that tweet and "Good-bye, Penny Arcade. Until you issue an actual apology and treat rape survivors like human beings, I won't be reading your strip.", I don't see much that qualifies as irrational and personal attacks outside of calling Kurtz a dickhole, which is kinda middling, I guess? What kind of things did she say and what kind of harsher treatment would you recommend?
posted by boo_radley at 2:55 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean, for fuck's sake I wish people would grow up and realise that they might take offense at something but that's that. Move on, realise the person isn't being malicious and pick your fucking battles.

Yes, damn those rape victims for feeling poorly about a joke! Who do they think they are?!

As I posted earlier, I found the original comic to be amusing but it's possible to do that AND respect the opinions of others. Perhaps part of "growing up" is learning that what is a non-issue to you is a worthy battle to someone else. If you disagree, engage them.. don't tell them to just get over themselves.
posted by jess at 2:57 PM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think the original comic was not very funny, but also wasn't promoting rape culture or anything like that. As someone upthread said, they were using it for its absolutely abhorrent qualities, which hardly promotes it, and it wasn't suggesting that it was funny that the slave was getting raped; quite the opposite. It was basically everything they did after the comic, in response to criticism that was full of teh wrong. And yes, even though the comic was not part of the problem, the folks responsible for the responses definitely are.

I'm not entirely sure how sugrar-coating the message will accomplish that, though. I would think, as Astro Zombie says, it will only cause further confusion.

I don't think it's sugar-coating that's being suggested, just not approaching the discussion like you hold the keys to truth and you're going to enlighten the heathens. Doesn't work so well in religion or tolerance training. It's possible, just possible, that you on one side or the other of the discussion might be wrong.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:59 PM on February 2, 2011


Major props to the moderators for their efforts on this thread, both seen and unseen.
posted by whuppy at 2:59 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm not a huge fan of the current 'rape culture' and 'trigger' feminist school of thought

yah, fuck people with PTSD!
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:02 PM on February 2, 2011


the homophobia latent in man-on-man rape jokes

I laughed at Garfield this morning-- he pushed Odie off the shelf again! Halfway through this thread, I was thinking that this made Jim Davis and me "furtherers of 'animal abuse culture'"-- but now I understand that it makes us "canine-phobic."
posted by herbplarfegan at 3:04 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't see much that qualifies as irrational and personal attacks outside of calling Kurtz a dickhole, which is kinda middling, I guess? What kind of things did she say and what kind of harsher treatment would you recommend?

I don't think I can edit it down any further than "pretty much everything she wrote" and by harsher, I mean much less than the very polite treatment she received from Kurtz.

If you "don't see much", then I think we are sufficiently tone-deaf to each others' triggers (so to speak) to make proceeding further down this tangent kind of pointless.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 3:04 PM on February 2, 2011


This thread would be better if ShawnStruck's comment was repeated every fourth or fifth comment.
posted by hermitosis at 3:04 PM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


"If your sister or your mother or your daughter had experienced sexual assault – would you make jokes about rape, saying it was on them to deal with their feelings about your jokes?"

1. One can't live their life based on how parents might feel.

2. Relatives are a tad different from other people, so of course one may respond to them different manner.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:06 PM on February 2, 2011


One can't live their life based on how parents might feel.

True, but maybe somebody could think about what it would be like to have a close relative involved in something like that when one trolls rape victims with Dickwolf tshirts.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:09 PM on February 2, 2011


I laughed at Garfield this morning

Wow, then you have no real position from which to discuss "edgy" humor -- or comedy at all for that matter.

But I get it, you were actually making a point about how every possible scenario could be potentially offensive to somebody, thereby relieving your pasty male ego of ever having to care what anybody thinks about anything. Which tells me that you have not done a lot of reading in this thread, and/or have missed the more salient points people have brought up on either side. Why don't you read the other half of this thread and see if something sticks?
posted by hermitosis at 3:11 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


"If your sister or your mother or your daughter had experienced sexual assault – would you make jokes about rape, saying it was on them to deal with their feelings about your jokes?"

I might not, but that would be my failing. In the end, learning to laugh about their past, no matter how hard it may be, is what would be necessary.
posted by mrPalomar72 at 3:12 PM on February 2, 2011


I'm not a huge fan of the current 'rape culture' and 'trigger' feminist school of thought

yah, fuck people with PTSD!


Jesus jumped-up christ, Pope Guilty, if that's all you got out of jess's quite thoughtful comment (which included jess's own history with the issue, in case you missed it), it really is time for you to take a break.
posted by Errant at 3:14 PM on February 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


mrPalomar72: " I might not, but that would be my failing. In the end, learning to laugh about their past, no matter how hard it may be, is what would be necessary."

I may be misreading you here but in other words, they should get over it?
posted by zarq at 3:17 PM on February 2, 2011


"If your sister or your mother or your daughter had experienced sexual assault – would you make jokes about rape, saying it was on them to deal with their feelings about your jokes?"


Honestly, I might just do that. Not out of disrespect for them, but in a way that turns the power exchange around, and own the situation. I am a large-girthed man. I make jokes about me being fat, and the same holds true. A friend of mine (a stand-up comic) had relatives die in Buchenwald. He actually makes Nazi jokes.

Everything is situational, and comedy even moreso. I, for one, am very disappointed that no one in my reading here has cited George Carlin. Not that PA is the same as George Carlin, by any stretch. But he fairly solidly proved that *anything*, including rape, can be made funny. That does not mean no one will be offended by it, but that's not what jokes are about now, is it.
posted by Leth at 3:17 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Yeah, I've been cheering on Pope Guilty through most of this, but honestly PG, jess wasn't saying what I think you think she was saying, and she certainly doesn't deserve that.)
posted by koeselitz at 3:17 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I might not, but that would be my failing. In the end, learning to laugh about their past, no matter how hard it may be, is what would be necessary.

In what fucking world would it be your place to tell them that?
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:19 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


In an imaginary world where dickwolves, satyrs, Pan, and other mythical rapists are real and worthy targets of your outrage. Obviously.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:25 PM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


I am a large-girthed man. I make jokes about me being fat, and the same holds true. A friend of mine (a stand-up comic) had relatives die in Buchenwald. He actually makes Nazi jokes.

That is certainly one way of dealing with painful subjects. Forcing people to deal with their own painful subjects in the way that makes you most comfortable is not very compassionate.
posted by hermitosis at 3:27 PM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


Leth: "Honestly, I might just do that. Not out of disrespect for them, but in a way that turns the power exchange around, and own the situation."

Gallows humor is a coping mechanism, yes. However, forcing it on victims regardless of whether they are capable of processing it as such is an incredibly shitty thing to do.
posted by zarq at 3:27 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


if you think that's what this is about you don't undserstand at all.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:27 PM on February 2, 2011


I'm a little surprised that no one has mentioned what an absolute shit-heel Scott Kurtz is being in this, as well.

Because it's like commenting that the sun rose today. Kurtz has a long-established history of being unable to resist dishing it out accompanied by being completely unable to take it. I had to ditch his twitter feed months ago because it was so tiresome how often it was about whatever conflict he'd gotten into on some web forum where he'd walked in to throw around some shit about newspaper/print comics. Which would be fine at least consistent if he didn't then follow it up with extended pout-fests where he was torn up that people were treating him almost as badly as he was treating them, or calling him out on his shitty behavior.

I hadn't really considered the matter till you mention his behavior on this incident but it does make me think a little differently about the PA folks - knowing people by the company they keep, etc. If they want to share an office with someone who regularly treats people so poorly when they disagree with him then I don't think it's a stretch to think they've got a similar mindset. Which their reaction here certainly seems to support.
posted by phearlez at 3:29 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: "yah, fuck people with PTSD!"

To which extent do you propose we manicure reality to mitigate to the risk that someone with PTSD will see something that will make them uncomfortable?

Should we ban war movies because it might distress a war veteran? Or maybe ban crime reporting because it might distress a crime victim?

It's an honest question.
posted by falameufilho at 3:32 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not a huge fan of the current 'rape culture' and 'trigger' feminist school of thought

yah, fuck people with PTSD!


Seriously dude, are you going to come back to this in a day and feel good about how you're treating people? This is just abusive strawman stuff at this point. I'm sorry you're so angry that this is what you're down to but it's just not okay.
posted by phearlez at 3:32 PM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Honestly, I might just do that. Not out of disrespect for them,

And if they took it that way, and told you that, you'd respond by...continuing to make jokes? Insisting that they handle it the way you would, as that's clearly the correct way to do so?

That's a fast road to divorce or child estrangement. But then I guess it'd be their fault, for not being able to take a joke.
posted by rtha at 3:34 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Seriously dude, are you going to come back to this in a day and feel good about how you're treating people? This is just abusive strawman stuff at this point. I'm sorry you're so angry that this is what you're down to but it's just not okay.

I'm pretty sure that a day isn't going to make the difference between being angry at people who think being thoughtless is a positive trait and not being angry at them, since it hasn't yet.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:35 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can't go through life without being offensive to somebody!

So the question is who do you want to be offensive to? For example, you can say, "There is no evidence for meaningful difference between races! Race itself is a fuzzy concept filled with internal contradictions and is a poorer predicter of X than this non-racial thing Y, or even random chance!" And that would like, totally piss off people who really identify with the skinheads, you know?

If you don't mind offending skinheads, though, go ahead and say it.

On the other hand, you could make a comment totally affirming racism and meaningful differences between races. You could even chart out a hierarchy of race, using science! (of a certain kind) to prove your point. That would probably be objectionable to educated, thoughtful, and/or kind human beings with knowledge and philosophies that make them conclude that sort of thinking is both factually and morally wrong.

It's not that race is off limits for discussion. It's a matter of what you bring to the table.

So you're absolutely right. Almost anything will potentially be offensive to someone, somewhere. The question is, who might it offend?

If the answer is skinheads, I'd personally say go for it. Offend away. If the answer is "almost everyone" maybe it's time to think twice about not marketing a dickwolf team rape t-shirt and encouraging people to wear it at your popular event that you hope to entice large members of the public into attending.
posted by jsturgill at 3:36 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


@Pope Guilty: "In what fucking world would it be your place to tell them that?"

The same one in which it is your place to tell me what I can and can't make jokes about.
posted by mrPalomar72 at 3:39 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Basically they've sided with the Internet dickwads on this one, which is kind of confusing and really disappointing.

It's curious how many people keep applying the quantifying element of "sided with" when referencing the PA guys and some other outside entity of internet dickwads. I have a feeling, for many PA fans, myself included, this is where the confusion and disappointment is coming from.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:39 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The way Tycho and Gabe are dealing with this is a lot like the way they dealt with Scott McCloud. First make a comic about something; observe an offended reaction among the readership; wait a bit, until an opportunity for comedy presents itself, and then start trolling. When I saw them at a convention they called this "fishing" and it's a source of some of their gags.

This works just fine when the objects of your trolling can't be genuinely hurt by it--Scott McCloud already had an established fanbase, trolling wasn't going to make that any smaller. They're probably thinking in that frame of mind, assuming that the only damage they might do is to offend people. Or viscerally disturb them, but they seem to be okay with that as well.

It may not have occurred to them that by making a joke out of this they are closing people's minds, not just to the possibility that there's something wrong with the comic, but to feminist issues in general.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:40 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


The same one in which it is your place to tell me what I can and can't make jokes about.

So to your mind "Dude, not cool" and "dude, your'e reinforcing unfortunate parts of our culture" are the same as "hey you should totes get over being raped, lol".
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:41 PM on February 2, 2011


Actually Pope, I think it's the Shakesville side of this argument which is reinforcing unfortunate parts of our culture, and I'm offended by their arguments. I probably won't be sending them any hate mail to that effect though.
posted by mrPalomar72 at 3:43 PM on February 2, 2011


Should we ban war movies because it might distress a war veteran? Or maybe ban crime reporting because it might distress a crime victim?

To actually entertain your straw man, no. But I wouldn't run into a VFW screaming AAAAAAH THE BOMBERS ARE COMING RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! Krahulik went to a feminist blog and posted links to rape jokes and then made mocking references to trigger warnings on his own site. Why in god's name do people have to keep asking about hypothetical "bans" instead of just admitting that someone who does that is a goddamn asshole?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:44 PM on February 2, 2011 [14 favorites]


I think it's the Shakesville side of this argument which is reinforcing unfortunate parts of our culture

are you fucking kidding me
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:46 PM on February 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Errant: "This is a Louis CK bit that qualifies as a rape joke, at least to me. I think it is funny and I don't think it perpetuates rape culture."

I knew this bit. I find it hilarious. But let me put my rape cultue hat (*) for a second so I can analyze it.

Hm.

NO! This bit does perpetuate rape culture! It validates the myth that a woman never means what she says and that NO may not mean NO! GRAR!

You see? You can't win.

(*) Not really a hat - just a mayonnaise jar full of tears shed while listening to Tori Amos.
posted by falameufilho at 3:47 PM on February 2, 2011


The intersection of art and the personal politics of the artist came up just yesterday in the Ratfist thread. Most people over there seemed to think that people should be allowed to appreciate the art without considering the artist's politics.

To me, the situation is only slightly different here, in that the controversy crept into the art itself. You know what? 99.5% of PA comic strips don't have rape jokes in them. I can be pretty confident every MWF that, if I check out PA, no rape joke.

Furthermore, even though they were giant jackasses in the handling of this issue and I think they deserve the public outcry they're getting, I don't think they're in favor of rape in any meaningful sense, and I don't think their future actions are likely to do anything to make rape more acceptable.

So, although this has been an interesting discussion and I've learned a lot from it, come Friday morning, I'll keep on reading.
posted by gurple at 3:53 PM on February 2, 2011


Good comedy is, and always will be, offensive.
posted by mrPalomar72 at 5:46 PM on February 2 [+] [!]



Comedy is comedy, and offensive is offensive -- just because something is offensive does not make it comedy, and vice versa.

The entire point of comedy is to get people to laugh; I don't know if you've ever been to an open mic where some dude gets up on stage and immediately goes off into a racist tirade followed by how much he likes killing prostitutes, all in an attempt to be 'edgy'. That guy never gets laughs. Also he's not particularly 'edgy'.
posted by Comrade_robot at 3:54 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Culture - we are in it and of it. That's why a term like "rape culture" doesn't imply an intention to rape, it's just that we are creatures of our environment and it's damn hard to see the forest for the trees unless something happens to you that ruptures the continuum. Like the bubble of outrage around this particular offhand use of rape by some high profile gamers - it's a great opportunity to take a step outside ourselves and imagine a different culture -- one that pretty well everybody would probably like to live in -- where people don't rape other people so much. Joking about rape might be a step on the path towards forging that culture, because a joke is a kind of rupture. But pointing out that there are a lot of people who have already experienced that rupture through actual rape, and that the joke means something very different & painful in that context, is another big step. Discussing it from as many angles as possible, like what's happening on this thread, is pretty good too. Trying to imagine someone else's point of view is always, always useful.
posted by aunt_winnifred at 3:55 PM on February 2, 2011


(*) Not really a hat - just a mayonnaise jar full of tears shed while listening to Tori Amos.

Oh, I get it. Its funny because she was raped too.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:55 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


NO! This bit does perpetuate rape culture! It validates the myth that a woman never means what she says and that NO may not mean NO! GRAR!

I'd argue that he makes the clear point that no does mean no, even when not vocalized, and that it would be insane to think that a woman doesn't mean what she says, a point backed up by him saying, "Are you fucking crazy?"

I'd also argue that trying to "win" is really missing the point of the discussion entirely.

I'd also argue that your rape culture hat is really a misunderstanding rape culture hat, but that's to be expected; it's made of mayonnaise, tears, and ridiculous cliches about Tori Amos.
posted by Errant at 3:56 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


XQUZYPHYR: "To actually entertain your straw man, no."

Not a strawman - it was an actual honest question. The whole concept is so new to me that I'm trying to educate myself.

XQUZYPHYR: "Krahulik went to a feminist blog and posted links to rape jokes"

Yes, that's out of line, but that's not the issue. The issue is the original "being raped to sleep" joke. Your opinion on the tastefulness of it aside, should that joke not be made because of "triggers"?
posted by falameufilho at 3:56 PM on February 2, 2011


"Krahulik went to a feminist blog and posted links to rape jokes"

Yes, that's out of line, but that's not the issue. The issue is the original "being raped to sleep" joke.


Hundreds of comments so far beg to differ.
posted by hermitosis at 3:59 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


@Pope: are you fucking kidding me

No, absolutely not. We're turning into a nanny state where we legislate morality, we legislate safety, we legislate the fuck out of everything we can, and it's because of a**holes who can't take care of themselves and practically beg the government to do it for them. This "you can't say things that I don't like" attitude is just one piece of that, and frankly I'm sick of it.

Maybe I should petition mefi to force you to change your username. After all, it is an offense to all that is holy, is it not?
posted by mrPalomar72 at 4:00 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


hermitosis: "Hundreds of comments so far beg to differ."

Aw fuck this shit then - I'm not reading *that* again.
posted by falameufilho at 4:01 PM on February 2, 2011


are you fucking kidding me
Pope Guilty, you should take care - for when you gaze into the asshole, the asshole also gazes into you.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:03 PM on February 2, 2011


No, absolutely not. We're turning into a nanny state where we legislate morality, we legislate safety, we legislate the fuck out of everything
Who, exactly, do you think is trying to legislate anything? How is a feminist blog saying "this perpetuates rape culture" meaningfully different, in terms of free speech, from your saying "feminist blogs shouldn't say that things perpetuate rape culture"?
posted by craichead at 4:03 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


We're turning into a nanny state where we legislate morality, we legislate safety, we legislate the fuck out of everything we can, and it's because of a**holes who can't take care of themselves and practically beg the government to do it for them.

Um, what? Is anyone calling for legislation here? Is anyone accusing anyone of having committed a crime? What are you on about?
posted by Errant at 4:03 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


You know what I'm sick of? The idea that it should be completely cool to act a fuckwad but totally out of line to call someone out for acting like a fuckwad.
posted by Karmakaze at 4:04 PM on February 2, 2011 [33 favorites]


Maybe I should petition mefi to force you to change your username. After all, it is an offense to all that is holy, is it not?

If I may?

LURK MOAR
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:05 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


(*) Not really a hat - just a mayonnaise jar full of tears shed while listening to Tori Amos.

Oh, I get it. Its funny because she was raped too.


Yes. That is why it is funny.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:05 PM on February 2, 2011


Sebmojo: "Yes. That is why it is funny."

AMIRITE GUISE?
posted by falameufilho at 4:07 PM on February 2, 2011


" I'll take 'the rapists' for 200 Alex"

"Thats 'THER-apists' Sean"
- Darrell Hammond and Will Ferrell contributing to rape culture on SNL.

This thread has been fascinating but it IS much ado about nothing, we have an asslode of rights here in the ole U.S. of A. but the right to not be offended isn't one of them.

I'd also argue that no one is actually trying to intentionally perpetuate a "rape culture" here in the U.S. Unlike say our very vociferous "gun culture" and "southern culture" proponents.

The term, as I understand it, seems to be shorthand for belittling the experience of rape victims as as the subject percolates through our media. Leading to the devaluing or subjugation of half of our population.

Being the victim of violence does not give a person the right to descry the depiction of violence for entertainment purposes but it also does not deny that right. But if we jump at every perceived slight, we lose sight of ultimate goals and or progress.

Looking at all the gratuitous depictions of rape in the media ( the god awful remake of the god awful I Spit on Your Grave anyone?) makes this particular internet flame war look downright misguided.

Given that the PA goofs reacted poorly, I would say so did the objectors, this is not YOUR world or THEIR world but OUR world. The comments about comity do well in this post. The intolerant indignation that someone dare make a comic with rape as a lead to the joke about the piss poor game mechanics in a particular online game is whistling past the graveyard of our actual real life problems.

I'm glad we are so privileged to do so.
posted by Max Power at 4:08 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Yeah, I've been cheering on Pope Guilty through most of this, but honestly PG, jess wasn't saying what I think you think she was saying, and she certainly doesn't deserve that.)

Let me just go on the record as saying I am a huge proponent of bringing civility and empathy back into modern discourse, and I absolutely did not mean at all that people who have experienced previous traumatic events should suck it up, buttercup. I apologize if anyone read it that way. I do take issue with some of the current popular schools of feminist thought... but that's a subject for a different thread!
posted by jess at 4:08 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


No, absolutely not. We're turning into a nanny state where we legislate morality, we legislate safety, we legislate the fuck out of everything we can, and it's because of a**holes who can't take care of themselves and practically beg the government to do it for them. This "you can't say things that I don't like" attitude is just one piece of that, and frankly I'm sick of it.

Whatever your grievances are on those fronts, this thread is not really an ideal place to air them and it might be better to table them for now. This is a big and complicated thread as it is, and that's a significant departure from even the collection of topics folks have been discussing so far.
posted by cortex at 4:10 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Cortex is right. This will turn into a massive derail and it won't be pretty nor interesting nor what we're talking about.

Secondly, Pope G, we are on the same page but please calm down a little with one sentence jabs at people saying things in good faith.
posted by josher71 at 4:19 PM on February 2, 2011


Maybe I'm missing it. I've read over the initial responses, and none of them seemed that way. Could you give me a few examples of accusatory language in those responses?

Well, comments like: Because rape survivors exist among us, and after being victimized by rapists, they are revictimized by a society that treats even real rape like a joke.

Again, rape wasn't the joke. I've heard plenty of rape jokes (usually involving men in prison) and I don't find them humorous in the slightest. This, however, wasn't one. It referenced rape as an example of a terrible thing. In fact, given the context, possibly the most terrible thing imaginable.

To then say that they're essentially re-raping rape victims is just trolling. The pity is that they fell for it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:31 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Given that the PA goofs reacted poorly, I would say so did the objectors, this is not YOUR world or THEIR world but OUR world. The comments about comity do well in this post. The intolerant indignation that someone dare make a comic with rape as a lead to the joke about the piss poor game mechanics in a particular online game is whistling past the graveyard of our actual real life problems.

Yes, of course, nobody's contesting the PA guys' right to be assholes and douchebags and say all sorts of terrible, offensive things. Maybe they can get jobs in talk radio?
posted by mek at 4:32 PM on February 2, 2011


[Oops, warning re: the above - I quite like assholes, and have nothing against douching.]
posted by mek at 4:34 PM on February 2, 2011


Full circle:
[Oops, warning re: the above - I quite like assholes, and have nothing against douching.]
posted by gurple at 4:41 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


[("I laughed at Garfield this morning"]

Wow, then you have no real position from which to discuss "edgy" humor -- or comedy at all for that matter.

A would-be touché! (except, indeed:)

...But I get it, you were actually making a point about how every possible scenario could be potentially offensive to somebody, thereby relieving your pasty male ego of ever having to care what anybody thinks about anything.

Ah, yes: white-straight-male guilt, and an utter revocation of freedom of speech (or as you like to call it, being careful not to be "tone-deaf," "careless," and.. what is it?-- oh: "sensitive"). Not a chance. Sorry. The first amendment really is the issue when you cry "sensitivity," because you're undermining an individual's right to interpret their own motives and express them appropriately. First A. Fuckin'. Mendmen. Tuhhh. That's my opinion on the matter. And you disagree. See? It's happening right this second! It's terribly exciting--realsies.

...Which tells me that you have not done a lot of reading in this thread, and/or have missed the more salient points people have brought up on either side. Why don't you read the other half of this thread and see if something sticks?

No no, I've been reading, and you're certainly right that many relevant, and truthfully edifying points have been made from each angle.

You might often be wrong if you always assume that someone is ill-informed merely because they disagree with you.
posted by herbplarfegan at 4:47 PM on February 2, 2011


Offensive humor is offensive. If you use offensive humor, someone is going to be offended. That's the cost. The payoff if executed well is a ton of laughs. It's up to you if the cost is worth it.

The cost of being a "big name" is that someone, somewhere, is going to express not-nice things about your work, and possibly you as well. And in this day and age of ubiquitous internet publishing, that's likely going to show up on a blog, twitter, facebook, etc. etc.. You can either:

A: Accept that someone doesn't like your work or yourself much, or,
B: Be a dick and charge into the fray in order to get the last word defending your honor.

And something I've observed over the last few years of -fail flamewars is that B never seems to go well for the "big name" in question. Fandom is much more tolerant of the less-than-enlightened gaffe than it is of big names going bugfuck crazy over negative criticism, and it's all a tempest in a teapot anyway which flies under the radar of most fans. (And what is up with that anyway? Have artists really gotten so twitchy and thin-skinned?)

It seems weird to me that we can say that Hooper and Seidler delivered a political whitewash of nazi sympathies in the British royal family but we can't say that Krahulik and Holkins pushed their edgy humor a bit too far for some people on a single day out of hundreds of strips.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:49 PM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


The first amendment only applies to government prior restraint of speech. It does not apply to spoken or unspoken disagreement or editorial privilege. Saying, "that's not funny to me," doesn't violate any law, right, or principle.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:58 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


First A. Fuckin'. Mendmen. Tuhhh.

Congress. Shall. Make. No. Law.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:00 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


First A. Fuckin'. Mendmen. Tuhhh.

Protects your fundamental right not to have your speech repressed by the government. It's a good and important thing in the definition of a citizen's rights in the face of the governing body representing it.

It makes, however, no guarantees about freedom from criticism; it has nothing to say about any right to be thought well of for what one says. People saying shit that offends other people are exercising their right to free speech; people talking about why they're offended, likewise.

Exercising some amount of thoughtfulness and context-sensitivity in what you choose to say is a big part of how civil society manages to function. Reflexively hiking up the banner of FREE SPEECH in response to discussions about that sort of thing gets no one anywhere.
posted by cortex at 5:00 PM on February 2, 2011 [32 favorites]


I'm sorry, but bringing up the similarities between the legislate-everything crowd and the anti-PA crowd is completely topical. There is a similar undertone to the actions that have been undertaken by both groups, and it is an attitude which moves the responsibility for one's well being off of the individual and onto others. In this case, the question is: Are people responsible for the reactions that others have to the things they say?
posted by mrPalomar72 at 5:11 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


In this case, the question is: Are people responsible for the reactions that others have to the things they say?

Yes, unless you think the "free" in speech means "consequence-free". It doesn't. People are responsible for the consequences of their actions. Responsibility does not confer a sense of duty or obligation to rectify damages caused, but it does mean that if I say something that hurt someone, I hurt someone. I'm not thereby required to feel bad about it or to do anything about it if I don't want to, but look, you want people to stop relying on the "nanny state" and take personal responsibility. That's what personal responsibility looks like.
posted by Errant at 5:17 PM on February 2, 2011 [20 favorites]


The first amendment really is the issue when you cry "sensitivity," because you're undermining an individual's right to interpret their own motives and express them appropriately.

No, the first amendment is the issue when the government passes a law abridging the freedom of speech. What happened here was that the PA guys exercised their free speech rights by publishing a comic that some people found offensive, and then those people exercised their free speech rights by criticizing said comic. Shortly afterward, everybody went batshit and commenced to exercising their free speech rights all over the damn place. We've been exercising our free speech rights here on mefi all day; to the tune of over seven hundred posts, if you haven't been counting. Whatever you think about this episode, it doesn't involve any threat to the first amendment.
posted by steambadger at 5:19 PM on February 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


I read this whole thing. Seriously.

You know what I'd really like, right about now (other than a hug, because man, this is kind of depressing)? That the PA guys will do the same.

Because the discussion here ranges far and wide, and maybe they'd get a little perspective. Maybe even a lot.

I get that they're digging in their heels and going "nuh-uh"! over and over and over again. I just don't know why anymore. I thought there was a little spark of hope when the t-shirt got taken down from the store (allegedly because people - who were seen as REAL PEOPLE and not raving lunatics or reactionaries or trolls or whatever - had managed to get across that it made them really uncomfortable) but everything since then has just been a monsoon on that little spark of hope.
posted by lriG rorriM at 5:21 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Responsibility does not confer a sense of duty or obligation to rectify damages caused, but it does mean that if I say something that hurt someone, I hurt someone. I'm not thereby required to feel bad about it or to do anything about it if I don't want to, but look, you want people to stop relying on the "nanny state" and take personal responsibility. That's what personal responsibility looks like.

I agree with you 100%, it's when the 'harmed' starts feeling entitled to recompense that it gets to me, and it seems pretty obvious to me that the anti-PA crowd feels entitled to something here (be it fair treatment, an apology, etc.)
posted by mrPalomar72 at 5:22 PM on February 2, 2011


ten pounds of inedita: "If you "don't see much", then I think we are sufficiently tone-deaf to each others' triggers (so to speak) to make proceeding further down this tangent kind of pointless."

I would geniunely like to better understand the point of view. Maybe you could link me to one tweet? No explanations, no nothing, just the understanding that "this was the tweet that was too much."
posted by boo_radley at 5:23 PM on February 2, 2011


I agree with you 100%, it's when the 'harmed' starts feeling entitled to recompense that it gets to me, and it seems pretty obvious to me that the anti-PA crowd feels entitled to something here (be it fair treatment, an apology, etc.)

You know, I don't think the anti-PA crowd, as you put it, really would have felt entitled to an apology or anything if they weren't a) so horribly misrepresented in that "go forth and rape no more" strip and then b) basically directly antagonized with the dickwolves t-shirt and all that followed. That follow-up wasn't the equivalent of ~shrug~ "you win some, you lose some. Whatever." Nor was it even "my give a damn is busted." It was full-on "yeah, well, this makes you uncomfortable? GOOD! HAVE SOME MORE!" And after that kind of thing, is it any wonder that there were calls for apologies or (~gasp~) "fair treatment"?
posted by lriG rorriM at 5:28 PM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


There's nothing "nanny state" about wanting an apology. Nobody sued PA or charged them with a crime, in the expectation that they would have to do anything to anyone in particular. It's just a bunch of people talking, not always politely, about things that are important to them.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:31 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know what I'm sick of? The idea that it should be completely cool to act a fuckwad but totally out of line to call someone out for acting like a fuckwad.

Assuming no tangible harm, it should be legally "cool" as close to everyone agrees.

However, the big point here is that if you feel that you have the high ground, then yes--it is your responsibility to at least attempt to make the high ground amenable to whoever happens to be acting out.

You know what I'm sick of? People who really do know better about any given thing--but pollute the message with condescension, accusatory language, and self-righteous obnoxious behaviors. Because that leads right to situations like the current one, and the people who need to hear it the most--the ones who are wrong--inevitably shut it out or take it as an attack.

I think this thread went well, and I'm certainly not accusing anyone in particular here, but I think that the tone in situations such as these is almost never ideal for actually resolving the problem. Outrage is good for revolutions, not changing the mind of someone who's being insensitive or a jerk.
posted by Phyltre at 5:31 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I agree with you 100%, it's when the 'harmed' starts feeling entitled to recompense that it gets to me, and it seems pretty obvious to me that the anti-PA crowd feels entitled to something here (be it fair treatment, an apology, etc.)

The "anti-PA crowd" (not a term I buy, really, but let's go with it) feels hurt. That means they are hurt, unless one wishes to accuse them of lying. Typically, when people are hurt, they would like recompense in the form of an apology or at least an acknowledgment that someone did something to hurt them. From their perspective, Mike is not taking responsibility for the fact that he did something to hurt them, by virtue of denying any real offense caused and mocking those claiming injury. It's sort of like if I accidentally elbowed you on the train and then, when you said, "Ow, hey, I'm right here, watch it," I said, "Fuck you, you couldn't possibly have been hurt by that, oh, and here's my shirt commemorating Team Razor Elbow, get bent."

You'd probably have liked an apology. You can probably make it through the rest of your day not having gotten one. But you'd probably think I was seven kinds of asshole, and you'd probably tell your friends about the jerk you ran into on the train. The internet makes those interactions public, with magnifying effect on both scope and hyperbole, but no one's asking for punitive damages or calling the police. They're saying, hey, you're being kind of a jerk right now, maybe you'd like to not be a jerk? And he's saying, fuck you, I don't have to apologize to anyone for my inadvertent elbow smashes, I'm free to elbow whomever I want without consequence or apology.

He is. But it doesn't mean he's not an asshole for doing so.
posted by Errant at 5:35 PM on February 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm sorry, but bringing up the similarities between the legislate-everything crowd and the anti-PA crowd is completely topical. There is a similar undertone to the actions that have been undertaken by both groups, and it is an attitude which moves the responsibility for one's well being off of the individual and onto others. In this case, the question is: Are people responsible for the reactions that others have to the things they say?

I've seen your argument before. It sucks in so many ways it's hard to be succinct when replying. But I'm going to try by rephrasing the opposition's position in terms you might be more friendly towards: actions have consequences. Speech is an action. Selling team rape merchandise is an action. Inaction, such as not speaking out when you are a public figure and your followers harass your critics, is an action.

So if you want one group of people to take responsibility for their own emotions, at least be consistent enough to recognize that the other group of people should also take responsibility for their own actions.

That's what's happening here, in case you didn't notice. PA is reaping the consequences for their actions. Being surprised at this development is like being shocked that water is wet and rocks fall down when you throw them in the air. True fact: people are often outraged by outrageous situations, and then they talk about their outrage online.

If your statements are a true reflection of your values, suck it up and walk the walk. Instead of making strange, paranoid leaps towards hypothetical legislation that no one else has proposed, you should speak up and tell it like it is: "Fuck yeah, feminists! I don't agree with you, but you should absolutely feel free as hell to criticize things and boycott events you don't like."
posted by jsturgill at 5:39 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's sort of like if I accidentally elbowed you on the train and then, when you said, "Ow, hey, I'm right here, watch it," I said, "Fuck you, you couldn't possibly have been hurt by that, oh, and here's my shirt commemorating Team Razor Elbow, get bent."

Taking that analogy a bit further, if you were on a Hong Kong subway and that happened, you wouldn't expect an apology, and anyone who you tried to get one from might look at you a bit strangely and eventually start to get annoyed if you kept asking for one. Point is, PA is often controversial, and any expectation that they respond to each and every criticism with kindness and/or an apology is probably unreasonable.

Also, if my friend spent months complaining to me about that one time somebody elbowed him and then wouldn't apologize, i'd tell him to stop whining and move on with his life.
posted by mrPalomar72 at 5:43 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The "anti-PA crowd" (not a term I buy, really, but let's go with it) feels hurt. That means they are hurt, unless one wishes to accuse them of lying.

Nobody is doubting that they feel hurt. The question is whether that's at all justified, and if so, at what point in the process.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:45 PM on February 2, 2011


The question is once you've hurt someone, why would you continue to purposefully and publicly antagonize them?
posted by maryr at 5:48 PM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


boo-radly: I would geniunely like to better understand the point of view. Maybe you could link me to one tweet? No explanations, no nothing, just the understanding that "this was the tweet that was too much."

I can't link to one, but I'm betting that this one explains why.

I didn't see the original discussion between her and Scott. I removed pvponline from my twitter feed months ago, pretty much for the reasons phearlez mentioned. After today I will probably be doing the same with Gabriel. I didn't mind the original strip, and thought that the issue had died down, but his behavior the last few days has been shockingly horrible.
posted by Roommate at 5:49 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


So if you want one group of people to take responsibility for their own emotions, at least be consistent enough to recognize that the other group of people should also take responsibility for their own actions.

wow, i seriously don't understand what you did there...

PA is reaping the consequences for their actions. Being surprised at this development is like being shocked that water is wet and rocks fall down when you throw them in the air.

It's not at all surprising, just a bit disheartening.

If your statements are a true reflection of your values, suck it up and walk the walk. Instead of making strange, paranoid leaps towards hypothetical legislation that no one else has proposed, you should speak up and tell it like it is: "Fuck yeah, feminists! I don't agree with you, but you should absolutely feel free as hell to criticize things and boycott events you don't like."

FWIW, I have nothing against feminism, or criticism, or even boycotts. I just happen to believe that in this case, all parties concerned would have been much better off if they'd just moved on a long time ago.
posted by mrPalomar72 at 5:50 PM on February 2, 2011


Roommate: "I can't link to one, but I'm betting that this one explains why."

Ah, ok -- I had considered (but did not mention in thread) that some tweets had been deleted. That definitely throws a wrench in things.
posted by boo_radley at 5:51 PM on February 2, 2011


The question is once you've hurt someone, why would you continue to purposefully and publicly antagonize them?

Who knows, maybe the PA guys have a misguided belief that eventually the absurdity of it all will click and the other side will have an "a-ha, maybe I should just chill the f- out" moment? There are plenty of people who believe that conflict and chaos are actually beneficial.
posted by mrPalomar72 at 5:52 PM on February 2, 2011


The question is once you've hurt someone, why would you continue to purposefully and publicly antagonize them?

I think both sides could ask themselves that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:54 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is where the analogy starts to break down, because elbowing people and the subject of rape are not really the same, but I'll give it a go.

If the elbowing is symptomatic of a general culture of thoughtlessness and aggressive marginalization towards bodily harm on subways, you might well have reason to point this out as an example of same. And that's the point: people are complaining about this one thing, yes, but it's not the first time or the single time they have been elbowed. They're using this one example as a highlight of a fairly mainstream and constant culture of marginalization. People are complaining about the culture, and because the internet allows for direct communication with authoritative and signature figures, they are complaining to that person directly.

The other place this analogy breaks down is if your friend spent months talking about the various ways their sexual trauma is exacerbated by public figures marginalizing it and laughing at you for not being over it, I do not think you would tell them to stop whining. I could be wrong about that, though, maybe you would.
posted by Errant at 5:55 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have nothing useful to add, but as everyone is choosing to comment on this post I figured it would be logical if I did too.
posted by efbrazil at 5:57 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The question is once you've hurt someone, why would you continue to purposefully and publicly antagonize them?

That's a pretty easy one: because you're an asshole; because you can't stand to not "win"; because your ego is overly developed; because you are entitled enough to believe that you can say or do whatever the fuck you want without consequence.

Pick one or more.
posted by rtha at 5:58 PM on February 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


FWIW, I have nothing against feminism, or criticism, or even boycotts. I just happen to believe that in this case, all parties concerned would have been much better off if they'd just moved on a long time ago.

No, that's not "just" what you happen to believe. You believe that the critics of PA in this case represent a class of people who are acting as though they are "entitled to recompense" and think they deserve to go through life without ever being offended by anything. Strange way to characterize people who are embracing the cornerstone of your ideology and engaging in a free and open dialog about their beliefs. In fact, it sounds like you're grinding an axe and coming into the discussion with all sorts of preconceived notions that may or may not fit the circumstances. And by may or may not I mean don't.
posted by jsturgill at 5:59 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Nobody is doubting that they feel hurt. The question is whether that's at all justified, and if so, at what point in the process.

This really, really isn't the question. People do not have to justify their injuries, they do not have to prove that someone else meant to hurt them in order to be hurt, they do not have to be hurt by the same things you would be hurt by and go untouched by the things that don't touch you. Nobody has to justify their feelings. You don't have to take people seriously if you don't want to, you can think that people are oversensitive and weak and crybabies if you want to, that's entirely up to you. But no one gets to say that another person's pain is somehow invalid, and there aren't any flags on the play.
posted by Errant at 6:09 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


CHT - A group of fans felt insulted, ranted on their blogs about it, and Penny Arcade's response was to sell t-shirts, like it's the frakkin' circus. I mean, this is the level of dialogue one sees at sporting events. "Jeter Blows The Ump!" style shi[r]t. I'll even cede you the point that they don't need to apologize (even after the 2nd sarcastic, condescending strip). But they elevated this to Us vs Them and sold pennants.
posted by maryr at 6:12 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


KirkSluder writes:

Sure, which is why it's helpful to look up the definition of phrases as they're actually used, such as this one: Rape culture is a term used within women's studies and feminism, describing a culture in which rape and other sexual violence (usually against women) are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence. (emphasis added)

This is why the neologism fails. Few rational people will go 'huh. Rape culture. I really don't understand what that means when that person called me part of that. So I guess I will go look it up on a women's studies or feminist website; or perhaps wikipedia it.'

No, instead they will consult their own cultural norms and experiences to understand the terminology, and as the words are extremely well known, the definition is plain on its face: if you support 'rape culture', then you are objectively pro-rape; and you are on the side of rapists, and perhaps even are the sort of person to commit rape yourself as part of this 'culture' that you are branded as belonging to.

I understand that being misunderstood makes you angry, and that you would much rather have people communicate only in the language which you've chosen under the rules you've written, and that if they can't seem to do that, not only is that 'straw manning' the argument (??), but that person needs to be talked down to and merely shown the way.

Unfortunately that is not how communication works, and that is part of the problem here.
posted by felix at 6:22 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ok, my first response was a throwaway joke, but as a white male who makes t-shirts, I can note that it's a jarring thing when you come face to face with your privilege.

One or two of my designs uses the picture of Andrew Jackson from the $20. There wasn't a lot of thought behind it, beyond I find Andrew Jackson to be an interesting historical figure (largely because he was batshit crazy), and sort of a joke on how rap shirts and the like use Benjamin Franklin from the $100 in their imagery, like "medium pimpin'" or something.

A friend of mine, who is part Native American told me that she liked my shirts, but wouldn't buy one with AJ on it. She explained how horrible Jackson's treatment and rampant violence towards Native Americans was a wound that still resonates with many peoples today. She told me how on some reservations people won't even use $20 bills because Jackson is "a bit like Hitler to us". She knows I don't advocate genocide, nor that I meant any harm by it, largely she just kinda gives me shit for it.

I admit I still like my Andrew Jackson logo shirt, and I still find him to be an interesting figure, but because I'm a white guy, I never really had to consider his actions in any context other than in a detached, historical perspective.

To me it was eye opening, and a call to be aware of what I might be communicating using such imagery, even if it's completely benign to me. To the PA guys, it was cause to be insensitive jerks.

Make of that what you will.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:24 PM on February 2, 2011 [21 favorites]


People do not have to justify their injuries...

Yeah, they do. At least if they want me to take them seriously. How was mentioning rape, specifically in the context of something horrible that you should be rescued from, injuring them? Unless you think rape shouldn't be mentioned ever, which I would argue is counter-productive.

But they elevated this to Us vs Them and sold pennants.

I'd argue that they weren't the first to elevate it to Us vs. Them. Selling pennants et al. wasn't the classiest move, as I said above, but at that point it was all about circling the wagons. It's predictable behavior.

If you're trying to find enemies rather than win minds, that's a textbook example.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:26 PM on February 2, 2011


...at that point it was all about circling the wagons. It's predictable behavior.

If you're trying to find enemies rather than win minds, that's a textbook example.


Am I misunderstanding you? I'm not trying to take your words out of context, but yes, that is exactly what I believe Penny Arcade did and I see no reason that they needed to.
posted by maryr at 6:29 PM on February 2, 2011


Errant, that's an awful lot of words to say, "this and all other arguments by analogy are bankrupt and let's now talk about something relevant."
posted by TypographicalError at 6:31 PM on February 2, 2011


Am I misunderstanding you? I'm not trying to take your words out of context, but yes, that is exactly what I believe Penny Arcade did and I see no reason that they needed to.

Well, we apparently agree on the 'what they did' part. As to 'why they needed to,' they were accused of supporting rape (to some degree or other.) That is the sort of thing that tends to get a reaction.

The flip side is, why did Shakes feel the need to accuse them of that in the first place?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:35 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've changed my mind. Rape jokes are not cool.

Bad:

Me: [rape joke]
Somebody: Hey, that's kinda hurtful.
Me: Have a t-shirt - it's my right to tell rape jokes.

OK:

Me: [rape joke]
Somebody: Hey, that's kinda hurtful.
Me: Sorry - that wasn't my intention, and I won't tell those sorts of jokes around you again.

Best:

Me: Rape is a heinous crime and I can probably find better things to be funny about. Life's too short trying to be clever enough to make something like that into yuks. I was wrong. I'm not saying you have a right to go through life without being upset or offended. I'm saying I've decided I would rather not upset people who might have been raped, or known or loved somebody who was raped, just so I can maybe get a laugh, and that I'm a better person if I stop thinking of rape as joke material.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:36 PM on February 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


jsturgill : You believe that the critics of PA in this case represent a class of people who are acting as though they are "entitled to recompense" and think they deserve to go through life without ever being offended by anything.

Serious question - If PA briefly apologized (nothing flowery, just "sorry for our insensitivity guys"), and agreed to drop the whole matter - But refused to make any form of reparation or pull the original strip or anything like that...

Do you believe their critics would just nod contentedly and go away?


obiwanwasabi : Sorry - that wasn't my intention, and I won't tell those sorts of jokes around you again.

Now replace "those sorts of jokes" with every single special interest group you can imagine, and "around you again" with "on a website you voluntarily visited in the first place".
posted by pla at 6:39 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


they were accused of supporting rape

Where?

Here's the original Shakesville post. I don't see where it says anyone was accused of supporting rape.
posted by KathrynT at 6:40 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I admit I still like my Andrew Jackson logo shirt, and I still find him to be an interesting figure, but because I'm a white guy, I never really had to consider his actions in any context other than in a detached, historical perspective.

Unless your friend is two hundred years old, neither did she.

Someone upthread talked about how our legal system says that if someone's harmed, they're entitled to recompense. That's not how it works. Compensation requires that you draw a reasonable link between the harm you claim to have suffered and the action you claimed caused it. So, yes, people do have to "justify" their claims. If you look at the initial Penny Arcade strip and say that caused you harm, bully for you. That's not reasonable, any more than it would be to call me out for using the word "bully" because you were bullied fifteen years ago. And when you start attacking the Penny Arcade guys for doing that strip, on the basis of nothing but that strip - in the Shakesville post alone, look at the "Label: Today in Rape Culture", the "Rape is Hilarious, Part 5" title, the babble about "revictimization" claiming this strip re-rapes rape victims, the repeated comments about how this is trivializing rape and making light of rape and how dare people say "rape" as a term describing an extreme and unpleasant violation that wasn't actually a person being physically raped - you don't have credibility in that claim.
posted by kafziel at 6:42 PM on February 2, 2011


You know what - i've thought about it - and here's another addition

screw apologies, fix the behavior instead

I tell my students (12 and 13 year olds) to not apologise to me. That apologies in that situation basically mean 'shut up, stop lecturing me.'

I don't want an apology - i want a dedication to them NOT being dicks when confronted for offensive behavior. I want a change in behavior.
posted by Fuka at 6:44 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's the original Shakesville post. I don't see where it says anyone was accused of supporting rape.

See above.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:47 PM on February 2, 2011


they were accused of supporting rape

Where?

And make no mistake: Someone who defends rape jokes, which are the the primary means by which rape is normalized and its gravity diminished to make rape acceptable ... is indeed a rape apologist.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:48 PM on February 2, 2011


TypographicalError: I apologize, that wasn't my intention and I certainly don't think arguments by analogy are bankrupt; after all, I made one. Arguments by analogy can summarize and illuminate, but they can't stand in for the whole at all points, and it seemed to me that we'd reached a point where talking about that specific analogy did not translate to the actuality. I did not mean to shut off avenues of conversation and I apologize for doing so.

ChurchHatesTucker: I take people seriously to start with, so they don't have anything to prove to me. I understand that your value system is different.
posted by Errant at 6:51 PM on February 2, 2011


'The Silencing Tropes of Rape Apologia' had a couple of good singles back in the '90s but their later stuff was way too commercial.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:53 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Serious question - If PA briefly apologized (nothing flowery, just "sorry for our insensitivity guys"), and agreed to drop the whole matter - But refused to make any form of reparation or pull the original strip or anything like that...

Do you believe their critics would just nod contentedly and go away?


It's several months too late for that course of action. But if we want to engage in counterfactual thinking, then yes, I believe there is an extremely high probability that is what would have happened had they made a sincere and thoughtful statement about the reaction from the beginning. It wouldn't even be old news by now. No one (or very few) would remember it or care much at all.
posted by jsturgill at 6:55 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's the original Shakesville post. I don't see where it says anyone was accused of supporting rape.

"Rape is Hilarious, Part 53 in an Ongoing Series"
"The problem is, I just don't find rape funny."
suggesting that Gabe and Tycho find the concept of rape, in and of itself, to be funny.

"Because rape survivors exist among us, and after being victimized by rapists, they are revictimized by a society that treats even real rape like a joke, forced to live in a culture that actually has a lot of rape jokes, including those about rape victims being actively denied justice for no other reason than because people don't take rape seriously."
saying that this is what Gabe and Tycho are doing.

"Labels: Today in Rape Culture"
We've been over what "rape culture" might or might not mean to the layperson, but even the academic meaning is accusing the strip of "condon[ing], normaliz[ing], excus[ing], or encourag[ing] sexualized violence."

"This is why I'm a humorless feminist. Because rape jokes killed my sense of humor."
Part of the repeated insistence throughout the post that this was a rape joke, a joke about how rape is funny.

And then there's the comments. Most pointedly:
"It's a cheap, easy shot to make for someone in the gamer community to make, but I had hoped that Tycho and Gabe were better than that. I really don't think they even thought about it in this context, which is why I sent them an e-mail; unlike many sources of rape apologia I find, in this case I have high hopes that the source may respond favorably to communication."
Emphasis mine. Calling the strip rape apologia, and the creators rape apologists? If that's not accusing them of supporting rape, what is?
posted by kafziel at 6:58 PM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Someone upthread talked about how our legal system says that if someone's harmed, they're entitled to recompense. That's not how it works. Compensation requires that you draw a reasonable link between the harm you claim to have suffered and the action you claimed caused it. So, yes, people do have to "justify" their claims.

No, they don't. Criticism is not law. You do not need to pass a test to set up a blog and share your opinions. People trying to use a legal framework in this discussion are off base. People trying to make a boogie man out of the PA critics by claiming they are a cabal trying to write legislation to control people's thoughts aren't even off base. They're playing a different sport entirely, in a galaxy far, far away.
posted by jsturgill at 7:03 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Still more good points made here, all the way through. I spent like 5 hours on this damn thread today.

The reason I brought up the First Amendment was to say that Freedom of speech includes a responsibility to be offended. I have it. You have it. When I'm offended, I try to remember to be psyched about the freedom, not just when I'm the one with something to say. There's a sort of transcendent unity.

Doing that makes this discourse unnecessary.
(and no, a-hole, I'm not saying you should be censored for your response to what offends you-- fuckin' christ.. read it again. those offended by your response need to keep the same thing in mind, etc.)

'night
posted by herbplarfegan at 7:18 PM on February 2, 2011


Someone upthread talked about how our legal system says that if someone's harmed, they're entitled to recompense. That's not how it works.

That's largely true.

No, they don't. Criticism is not law. You do not need to pass a test to set up a blog and share your opinions.

That's also largely true.

Discuss.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:23 PM on February 2, 2011


herbplarfegan: "The reason I brought up the First Amendment was to say that Freedom of speech includes a responsibility to be offended. I have it. You have it. When I'm offended, I try to remember to be psyched about the freedom, not just when I'm the one with something to say. There's a sort of transcendent unity.

Doing that makes this discourse unnecessary.
"

But there is also the terrible fact that freedom of speech isn't free of consequences, right? Offended or not, people can and will disagree. That's a facet of that particular freedom that I think needs to be reinforced -- not by you as an individual, but in by everyone in general.
posted by boo_radley at 7:41 PM on February 2, 2011


Discuss.

Well it's interesting, right? If you believe in free speech then you have to sort of believe in both people's right to say offensive bullshit and also people's right to say "I am offended." If you just cut it off at people's right to say offensive shit and try to shame and badger people into not talking about the things they want to talk about in response, well, that's not real free-speecherly of you.

We deal with this in libraries all the time, public libraries where free speech is actually a guiding principle and not just a good idea. We're anti-censorship as a value [most of us, I know there are exceptions] and this means letting totally reprehensible people say whatever, sometime. But, letting people talk doesn't mean not also saying that you think they're reprehensible, or whatever. It just means people get the same rights to talk as other people, and equal access to space to say their stuff that isn't based on what they're saying.

And people often talk about how, in the US, there's a "freer speech" opportunity afforded to the people who own the means of production, the media, the private spaces that so many people inhabit, the airwaves. That, even though both Rupert Murdoch and I can stand on the town common [I really have one of these in my town] and howl about the government, only he can then put his howlings in hundreds of newspapers across the nation [and yeah technically that's freedom of the press, but it's all bundled in the delightful bill of rights]. So, you have to ask yourself whether you believe in equality as the underpinning of all this, or rights to expression, or just access to platforms or what have you and then think on how that affects what you think people should be able to say or not say, do or not do.

So, Penny Arcade had a platform, they made some jokes and made some t-shirts, some people didn't like them, and a weird rage campaign started. I'm one of those "with great power comes great responsibility" people and I guess I was hoping for better. Disappointed but not surprised at the larger internet freakout. Disappointed at the rape jokes I had to delete from this thread. Didn't think "Oh I wish I ruled the world so I could make people not say that sort of thing" because here at MeFi, I do. We take proactive steps to manage the community here in different ways than the Penny Arcade folks do, we're a different community. But I hope people can see that both of these sites are communities who prioritize different things and make different choices. I know that's sort of namby pamby of me but honestly, I like it here. Other people can like it there and it doesn't mean I'll think they're in bed with rape apologists because I just don't think that way. Neither of us is the government telling you what to say.

The PA guys and everyone else wrapped up in this, for the most part, are people who made choices and I don't have to buy their t-shirts or even like them. That doesn't mean it's not germane or interesting to talk about why you might like or not like them or even how this sort of thing ties in with the sort of things you studied in school.

Now replace "those sorts of jokes" with every single special interest group you can imagine, and "around you again" with "on a website you voluntarily visited in the first place".

I do not find this sort of thing difficult in my personal life at all. I really like people and I like to try to get along with them. If you don't care what people think about you, you can usually get by saying a lot more like whatever you want. It's just wanting to say whatever you want AND not having people be pissed off about it that's not necessarily something you get if you want to interact in society. Choices, it's all choices.
posted by jessamyn at 7:42 PM on February 2, 2011 [39 favorites]


I will preface this by saying I do not regularly read this comic strip. It's less that I'm not a fan than it is that it's about a subculture that is without interest for me. I know a number of people who read it, and all of them are gamers. I know many more people who don't read it, and most of them are not gamers. I have read it and not laughed, but I accept that it might be really funny if I were all about some games, which I am not, so I just don't know. So this isn't about the quality of Penny Arcade; I don't speak its language, so I can't judge.

These guys are acting like jerks about this, but that's not so bad, really; people act like jerks about stuff all the time. What is bad is that they're very influential within their subculture, and it's a subculture around which circle all sorts of unlovely stereotypes -- lack of social skills, lack of empathy, sexist proclivities -- all of which they are unintentionally reinforcing by acting like jerks. They're not getting that when you piss a person off intentionally, like because that person's a jerk, you've succeeded...but when you piss a person off accidentally, a person cool enough to visit your site and read your comic strip because they enjoy your work, you have not succeeded. If the only reason you're giving that person shit is because they failed to enjoy your comic strip, the asshole here is you. A better thing to do (with apologies to empath) might be to say something like:

"Wow, I am so sorry that when you innocently visited our comic strip about video games yesterday morning in hopes of a small smile before work or during your lunch break, our comic decided it would be awesome to shit in your hair and kick you in the chest. You have to understand -- we're coming at this from the perspective of guys whose lives are generally pretty awesome, and who have pretty much zero chance of getting raped. It's more of an abstract notion w/r/t something that's kinda grievous for us than it is a thing, like, in the real world, and we kinda didn't think about how people to whom this is a little more of a real deal might not think rape jokes were funny. More to the point, we would never have thought that even a person who had been raped would take this so much to heart, because ultimately, we're talking about goofing on World of Warcraft here. To be honest, I'm still kind of stunned that anyone would find a line about a 'dickwolf' a trigger for PTSD, because it's...well, it's a dickwolf, c'mon. To me, that's ridiculous. But I have to take a step back and see that, for someone else, maybe it's not. I don't know how it's not. I seriously can't see it at all. But you know what? I guess that makes me kind of lucky, because part of why it seems ridiculous to me is I don't have a context for it. And that's a good thing. For me, I mean. Part of me is frustrated by the whole thing, because I don't want to have to walk on egg shells or sit down to write and have to worry about people will take it. I'm not fucking Oprah Winfrey over here. We can't work like that, and I hope you don't expect that. I can't promise you our strip will never piss you off again. I can't promise it'll never hurt your feelings again. But I can say that it's not our intent to shit on people who read the strip, and I'm sorry it did that to you."
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:44 PM on February 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


I already linked to Leigh Alexander upthread, but I think the longer piece from her personal blog is worth a read as well. It's a calm, measured, and largely empathetic response.
posted by danb at 8:00 PM on February 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


These guys are acting like jerks about this, but that's not so bad, really; people act like jerks about stuff all the time. What is bad is that they're very influential within their subculture, and it's a subculture around which circle all sorts of unlovely stereotypes...

I know. What was Shakes thinking?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:18 PM on February 2, 2011


Now replace "those sorts of jokes" with every single special interest group you can imagine, and "around you again" with "on a website you voluntarily visited in the first place".

Why does there need to be a slippery slope? Why can't I consider issues on a case by case basis and make a personal decision about whether I'm going to make jokes about them from now on? The Pope? Fair game. Priests sexually abusing children? No.

People might not agree with some of my decisions, but we can discuss those differences, and having explained why I think it's OK to make a joke about something (or not) and hearing a contrary view, I might even change my mind, as I did today. "I hadn't thought about it that way," I might say, or "No, I'm actually quite sure I can make jokes about stereotypical cannibals and still be a good person." Surely it has to be better to act according to considered, defended, nuanced maxims rather than 'nuh uh, I can say whatever I want whenever, so there.'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:21 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


danb: "I already linked to Leigh Alexander upthread, but I think the longer piece from her personal blog is worth a read as well. It's a calm, measured, and largely empathetic response"

be sure to read some of the stuff she wrote in formspring too.
posted by boo_radley at 8:24 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I know. What was Shakes thinking?

I actually have no idea how this pertains to what I was saying, probably because it doesn't.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:25 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Though it's actually directly related to the other rape-related discussion (the taxpayer-funded abortion issue), Kristen Schaal's bit on the Daily Show tonight seems at least somewhat relevant to the issues being discussed here.
posted by nickgb at 8:28 PM on February 2, 2011


Leigh Alexander is one of the best games writers out there, and that piece is dead on. I'm now curious of Rock Paper Shotgun is going to weigh in.
posted by empath at 8:43 PM on February 2, 2011


[This crowd] feels hurt. That means they are hurt, unless one wishes to accuse them of lying. [...] It’s sort of like if I accidentally elbowed you on the train

The anguish is very real, you keen-armed clod, but (and what a happy coincidence) it is palliated somewhat by my professional interest in "Elbow Culture.” “But what is an Elbow Culture, kid ichorous?” you ask as your eyes go dead.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:21 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you believe that study of trauma palliates your personal trauma, I envy you beyond description.
posted by Errant at 9:29 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I actually have no idea how this pertains to what I was saying, probably because it doesn't.

That's the crux of he problem.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:37 PM on February 2, 2011


Look, I don't like rape jokes, but Greek vases offer far more fanciful treatments of rape than that comic. To put it more directly, what I believe is that proselytizers will proselytize, and that claims of individual hurt feelings induced by this rather limp imagery are somewhat thrown into question by an outrage machine that guns for the front page of Jezebel at all cost.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:39 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


And yet after 782 comments, there's not a single Jezebel link in this entire thread and you're the first person who mentioned that site.
posted by jessamyn at 9:45 PM on February 2, 2011 [21 favorites]


I missed the Leigh Alexander stuff. Thanks to all who kept calling it out, because it's a wonderful, measured response. Especially this bit:

The joke doesn't offend me, but the idea that what people wear or don't wear at PAX is going to create some sinister delineation between people who were hurt and people who weren't creeps me out.

Pretty well sums up the poison pill that Gabe and Tycho unwittingly created for their own video game con. You done good on the booth babe issue, but then you went and created and profited from a blazing TEAM LEARN EMPATHY versus TEAM GET OVER YOURSELF controversy that is going to shroud a gathering that should be about enjoying games and bringing people of varying backgrounds together under one umbrella.

Given that that community does damn near zippo to address earnestly the racism and sexism and homophobia that pervade its culture, other than to go all BOYS WILL BE BOYS about the Xbox Live douchebags and what have you, that makes this missed opportunity pretty goddamn tragic.

So now victims of rape who are familiar with the controversy might attend, wanting nothing more than to play some games and see some awesome things, hoping that this will not be a THING, and they will probably be regularly confronted with a visual FUCK YOU, YOU ARE OVERSENSITIVE, WHAT ARE YOU, SOME KIND OF FAG t-shirt everywhere they go. And they will not try to engage the people wearing those shirts, because why should they? You're wearing a shirt that tells me to fuck off if I don't agree with your position.

So let's take the issues of morality and empathy and being a human being and throw that shit on the fire, and let's discuss this: you run a high-profile charity and a convention that's grown so big you had to split it in two. And you're going to put the reputation of all that at risk so you can...troll rape victims? Defend your "first amendment rights" to make rape jokes? Do you not get the concept of branding?
posted by middleclasstool at 9:48 PM on February 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


Forget Jezebel, I can't believe we seven hundred and eighty some comments about rape without a metatalk thread. Is that a first?
posted by neuromodulator at 9:59 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


did i just jinx it?
posted by neuromodulator at 10:00 PM on February 2, 2011


Forget Jezebel, I can't believe we seven hundred and eighty some comments about rape without a metatalk thread. Is that a first?

To be fair, I think all three mods have been nursing this thread through its most dangerous hours. It turned out much better than I would have thought, in terms of exchange of ideas and differing perspectives without any total flameouts. But man. I want to hug all three of them for the stress that it must have brought.
posted by verb at 10:07 PM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I do want to add one thing (one more thing?): Penny Arcade as an entity, and Jerry and Mike specifically, have taken great pains to divorce Child's Play from the webcomic, precisely because they don't want Child's Play to be associated with dick jokes and controversy. Regardless of how anyone feels about the comic, I think it's worthwhile to honor that separation.
posted by Errant at 10:10 PM on February 2, 2011


Considering the context, the gratuitous overuse of the words 'fuck' and 'asshole' in this thread, and the emphatic or contemptible connotations they are apparently meant to convey, are a far more depressing example of rape normalization than the original comic strip.

From where I'm sitting both Penny Arcade and Shakesville are engaged in a mixture of trolling and internet turf warz, and almost everyone seems to be far more interested in aggressively defending their well-established positions than showing sensitivity towards rape victims. The discussion resembles one of those trading card games: 'I'm using Feigned Outrage for +10 points. 'Hmm...well I neutralize it with Oh No you Didn't.' 'Not so fast - I also have Begging the Question which doubles the effect of any derail.'

The thread is so long and so bitter because most of the posts are coming from the same people on both sides who all know this game really well and enjoy themselves a good anger rush. It's probably a foolish suggestion, but I propose that the next time the subject of rape arises in a Metafilter thread, regular passionate commenters abstain from restating their strongly held feelings about the subject for the nth time. Alternatively, not taking the bait is usually a safe bet.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:13 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, I'm in the (small?) group that found the original comic funny but finds the subsequent behavior and the t-shirt absolutely reprehensible and unconscionable, and I thought of another way to explain it:

The people who are wearing the t-shirts and gleefully seeking out the opportunity to mention "Dickwolves" or some other facet of the controversy as frequently as possible as a way of needling others who are of the opposing opinion are behaving and taking the issue exactly as lightly as a Yankees fan who lives in Red Sox Nation prominently wearing Yankees gear and taking the opportunity to mention and hint at and joke about Yankees victories and Red Sox losses all the time.

But they aren't making constant, omnipresent jabs and digs at someone who has suffered so pedestrian a humiliation as their favorite sports team losing - they are digging and jabbing and needling some people, at least, whose lives were destroyed by rape.

And so when you wear a Dickwolves T and cheer at Gabe making snarky dismissals of the issue, you aren't simply conveying that you take the issue of rape as lightly as you would a Yankees-Red Sox sports fandom tussle, (at the very least some aspect of the issue of rape, let's not pretend that this is confined to a rarefied intellectual point solely concerning webcomics or MMORPGs) you are also encouraging others to take it that lightly. (Probably including a bunch of adolescent males, who may in this environment be looking up to people they see as having established some of the legitimacy that video gaming has today versus a decade or two ago.) The latter thing is what is meant by "perpetuating rape culture."

Let me be the first to agree that the very concept of a "Dickwolf" is hilarious. But funny does not mean harmless.

And it's not even an ironclad rule to "do no harm with your humor", there are definitely occasions when potential harm from a joke is abstract, remote, and theoretical enough that it can be disregarded - but in this case the harm is by no means theoretical and is not abstract or remote.

I am not actually a baseball or sports fan at all so if any of the above does not make sense my apologies.
posted by XMLicious at 10:30 PM on February 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


jsturgill: Someone upthread talked about how our legal system says that if someone's harmed, they're entitled to recompense. That's not how it works. Compensation requires that you draw a reasonable link between the harm you claim to have suffered and the action you claimed caused it.

Cool story, bro. Has nothing to do with my post, but shine on, you crazy diamond.

kafziel: Unless your friend is two hundred years old, neither did she.

You're either drunk or trolling, because this makes no sense.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:31 PM on February 2, 2011


Considering the context, the gratuitous overuse of the words 'fuck' and 'asshole' in this thread, and the emphatic or contemptible connotations they are apparently meant to convey, are a far more depressing example of rape normalization than the original comic strip.

"Fuck" does not always denote coitus (and certainly it does not always denote forcible coitus) any more than "shit" always denotes feces or "damn" always denotes perdition. Part of the whole concept of profanity is that words are used for their emotional connotation rather than for their literal denotation.

It's probably a foolish suggestion, but I propose that the next time the subject of rape arises in a Metafilter thread, regular passionate commenters abstain from restating their strongly held feelings about the subject for the nth time.

Hahahahhhaha, oh man, I don't even know where to begin.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:31 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whoops, I quoted a quote for the first one, sorry jsturgill
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:32 PM on February 2, 2011


I resolve to try harder not to take the bait. I feel like I am perpetually making this resolution, but bait by its very definition is tempting.

It's just really hard for me to watch so many of you pour your hearts and minds into considering these issues and sharing personal experiences and really shining a light down into the well here -- and have that be met with loud, lazy responses that seem to come straight from the brainstem. And it seems like there are people I rarely see on the site who are drawn to threads like these, compelled to speak up and reinforce their dim vision of the status quo.

And it's not fair of me to get involved in threads like these because I can't say for sure I am participating in good faith. When I think of all my loved ones who have been, for example, raped or sexually assaulted, or who have been deliberately harmed because of their conspicuous difference from the rest of the pack, and I think about how brave and generous they are in spite of it all, I feel I owe it to them (and to myself) to attack the delusions of ignorance, privilege, or hatefulness whenever I see them. I get blinded by this and I lash out.

Like earlier, when women's comparably greater risk of being raped was pointed out, and a few people responded to that with suspicion and/or disbelief. I'm so glad other people were able to come back reasonably with statistics and clarify the matter, because frankly I had to take a walk at that point. The very real risks and hardships that so many everyday people face are invisible to a shocking amount of people. And when people come out in support of the PA crew, all I hear is "I AM NOT INTERESTED IN HEARING ABOUT THESE PROBLEMS." That's what privilege really gets you -- the choice to have most of your interactions work only one way. People who are used to that really aren't equipped to communicate in a setting like this, but too often it's their input that winds up setting the parameters of a discussion.

In real life I am not a whiner. I am not an especially angry person, people often comment on my calmness. But over the past few years, something has changed and I just can't suffer fools the way I used to. After three decades of compulsively lowering my eyes in the face of confrontation and just meekly scuttling off, I just stopped. It's scary! But for now I am done "letting it go," online and in real life, and that's why I'll probably eventually have to stop commenting on MetaFilter.

At least there's AskMe.
posted by hermitosis at 10:52 PM on February 2, 2011 [36 favorites]


I apologize for not reading the whole thread (so there's a chance this may have been addressed) but, where do we stand on Lakers gear?
posted by DaddyNewt at 11:20 PM on February 2, 2011


But for now I am done "letting it go," online and in real life, and that's why I'll probably eventually have to stop commenting on MetaFilter.

Whether or not we agree, now, in the past, or in the future, I hope you will not stop commenting. That goes for everyone else here too.
posted by Errant at 12:08 AM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


The original comic didn't bother me at all; it was pretty clearly not poking fun at rape itself, like others have pointed out, and the blogs that took offense at it totally missed the point of the strip.

I have some sympathy for the PA guys, at least at first. The accusations against them were unfair and they could be forgiven for being a little defensive about it. But they should have dropped it then and there. By pressing the issue and trolling the offended and being unnecessarily dickish about the whole thing, they decisively crossed the line into Assholetown.

In a way, it's sadly inevitable. Mike and Jerry occupy an influential yet precarious perch in a niche culture that is all too often absolutely rotten on issues like this. I can imagine they felt under tremendous pressure to maintain their reputation for edgy irreverence in front of their fans, especially when under perceived attack from outsiders. Combine with the very cutting, toxic nature of the attacks on the comic, and you've got a recipe for hotheaded, ill-advised behavior. This whole thing would have gone a lot smoother if they had the presence of mind to shut up and let the issue subside, as they claimed to know it would, rather than egg everyone on. It also would have been nice if the unfair charges of sexism and misogyny hadn't been leveled in the first place.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:59 AM on February 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I, for one, welcome our new Dickwolf overlords.
















too soon ?
posted by Pendragon at 4:35 AM on February 3, 2011


Pendragon, it's not even that that's too soon, at this point basically the entire problem is casual jokeyness about the subject, repeated and unrelenting lulz and insistence that it's no serious thang.

After having thought about it a bunch in the furor after the original comic went up, and thought about it and read this thread and various linked items, late yesterday I came up with at least one interpretation of the comic that I could see being offensive, though it's an interpretation that is somewhat alien to my mindset and not what I think the PA guys meant. There are probably other possible interpretations I haven't thought of, too. So Rhaomi, possibly some of the outraged initial charges of sexism and misogyny were the result of honestly misunderstanding the comic.

If I was to engage in arguing about the comic itself, I'd probably be on the side arguing that interpreting the comic alone as condoning or participating in rape culture is unreasonable.

But I'm not talking about that in this thread because as many have said, the damning thing has been their response and subsequent conduct. The next comic, although it still earned a chuckle from me at that point, was pretty obviously spitting in the eye of the people who objected to the first comic; these are smart guys and they knew that "you're telling people to commit rape!" was not the only possible criticism, but that was what they responded to - a direct and flip dismissal of the people who were actually making that charge, a straw man for the people with more sophisticated objections.

I didn't think much more about it after that, figuring I'd seen them deal with complicated issues intelligently in the past and after that snarky jab at their harshest critics they'd eventually work it out. But it all went down hill from there apparently.
posted by XMLicious at 5:20 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thread is so long and so bitter because most of the posts are coming from the same people on both sides who all know this game really well and enjoy themselves a good anger rush.

You think that people who've been raped, and people who've had to comfort and support and defend their loved ones who've been raped, are enjoying these conversations? Getting their jollies from fighting on the internet to ask for basic decency for people who've been violated? You've got a pretty crappy idea of what makes a good time. Not everyone on the internet is a troll.

Like most people, I didn't find the orginal comic all that offensive. But the t-shirts and hateful attitude afterwards is something the PA guys should be ashamed of. And all the people who cry "get over it" or "quit talking about it" every time someone says that things need to change, they need to quit claiming that they're defending free speech.
posted by harriet vane at 5:22 AM on February 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


And slowly, it has dawned on me how seemingly useless and unproductive these discussions are on the internet.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:31 AM on February 3, 2011


Yeah, sorry for my comment. I wasn't thinking.
posted by Pendragon at 5:41 AM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


too soon ?

No, too public. It's not even a matter of it being too casually jokey, but being too casually jokey is an open forum filled with a number of people who will be irritated, offended or hurt by the joke, which is absolutely their right. If someone wants to do that sort of joke in there circle of five friends that will all laugh, that's fine. But you have to know your audience and be willing to accept the consequences of your statements or jokes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:47 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


felix: This is why the neologism fails. Few rational people will go 'huh. Rape culture. I really don't understand what that means when that person called me part of that. So I guess I will go look it up on a women's studies or feminist website; or perhaps wikipedia it.'

Really? I check wikipedia and the dictionary about a dozen times a day to check or confirm my understanding of how people might use a word. Granted, my job demands it, but what you're advocating here is not only stupidity, it's intentional and willful ignorance.

And again, you're ignoring the fact that all of these criticisms happened on feminist Web sites and communities as part of an ongoing discussion of rape culture with plenty of helpful links explaining exactly what it means. Here is a hint for you, not all books, periodicals, Web sites, and discussions are going to cater to your standard of intentional and willful ignorance.

No, instead they will consult their own cultural norms and experiences to understand the terminology,...

Certainly. And what were the cultural norms and experiences of a feminist community on a feminist Web site that had previously devoted over 50 posts over the last few years years to the discussion of rape culture?

I understand that being misunderstood makes you angry, and that you would much rather have people communicate only in the language which you've chosen under the rules you've written, and that if they can't seem to do that, not only is that 'straw manning' the argument (??), but that person needs to be talked down to and merely shown the way.

Straw man.

If you're going to read Penny Arcade, you need to become familiar with how they use language.
If you're going to read Chaucer, Melville, and Austen, you need to become familiar with how they use language.
If you're going to read personal ads on Craigslist, you need to become familiar with how they use language.
If you're going to read research journals in biology, you need to become familiar with how they use language.
If you're going to read metafilter, you need to become familiar with how we use language.
If you're going to read feminist Web sites, you need to become familiar with how they use language.

Communities that have already discussed the definition of rape culture in dozens of threads have no obligation to cater to your intentional and willful ignorance.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:00 AM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Really? I check wikipedia and the dictionary about a dozen times a day to check or confirm my understanding of how people might use a word. Granted, my job demands it, but what you're advocating here is not only stupidity, it's intentional and willful ignorance.

Really. It's great that you do this, but not everyone will. In fact the majority probably won't. You can call it intentional and willful ignorance if you like, but that's still not going to convince people to do their homework. I suspect it's just a facet of being human.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:04 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


No worries Pendragon. In most conversations and threads that type of joke would be totally appropriate even on a touchy topic, it's just that in this particular one jokey dismissiveness (jokey public dismissiveness, as Brandon rightly points out) happens to be a major mechanism of the rape culture problems that are at issue.
posted by XMLicious at 6:04 AM on February 3, 2011


OK here goes. First Metafilter comment ever.

It seems to me that there are two ways to express the feeling that someone has breached common expectations with something they did or said. The first is to say “ You did or said (something bad ) which I find unacceptable for the following reasons” and the second is to say “You did or said (something bad) so you are a (bad thing).” It also seems just as important to make sure that when someone tells you that you did or said (something bad) you don’t hear it as you are a (bad thing).
It seems like the folks at PA heard that they were a (bad thing) rather than they did (something bad) which led to their response which was something like “Oh yeah, watch this”. Which was a failure to listen I think.

As a side note I think this is the sort of thing where Metafilter can be helpful in understanding the issues and opinions on both sides of a story. The level of discussion here is light years above what I have found anywhere else and is the reason I gladly parted with 5 bucks.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 6:23 AM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


And slowly, it has dawned on me how seemingly useless and unproductive these discussions are on the internet.

Then perhaps you should go someplace where these discussions are not had and let those of us who disagree that these discussions are useless have them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:24 AM on February 3, 2011


mrPalomar72: Point is, PA is often controversial, and any expectation that they respond to each and every criticism with kindness and/or an apology is probably unreasonable.

The only reason this issue keeps running is that the folks at PA keep stirring the shit. Had they simply not responded to the criticism, it would have blown over in 48 hours.

ChurchHatesTucker: Well, we apparently agree on the 'what they did' part. As to 'why they needed to,' they were accused of supporting rape (to some degree or other.) That is the sort of thing that tends to get a reaction.

Ok, let me try to explain this using an analogy.

I'm bisexual and out to varying degrees. In my experience, I'm the target of anti-gay jokes and invective that are directed at me. I've been the target of anti-gay discrimination. I've been targeted for (thankfully rare) violent and non-violent crime.

All of these, in my view, are connected. At least in part because the crimes and discrimination usually include double helpings of the jokes and invective. So I don't find the casual anti-gay remarks that are endemic in online games to be funny. On particularly angry days, I can't deal with them at all. Even if the people making these jokes would be horrified if it actually came to violence, their sheer abundance contributes to an environment where discrimination and violence are more likely to occur.

And this is the argument made elsewhere on metafilter regarding violent eliminationist rhetoric in American politics. There's probably no magical causal string between Palin, Beck, and the multiple cases of politically-motivated violence we've seen over the last few years. But it's not helping things either.

That is the criticism made here of the original PA strip. The criticism is not that the people at PA personally condone rape, or intentionally encouraged rape, it's that this particular strip read like the dozens of jokey rape references that's endemic in MMORPG culture. (It actually was the only explicitly stated rule of our guild.) And the cumulative effect of all of that makes many women reasonably uncomfortable.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:27 AM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: Really. It's great that you do this, but not everyone will. In fact the majority probably won't. You can call it intentional and willful ignorance if you like, but that's still not going to convince people to do their homework. I suspect it's just a facet of being human.

People who don't do their homework don't get the benefit of the doubt, and quickly get the banhammer if they insist on arguing with the basics.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:32 AM on February 3, 2011


People who don't do their homework don't get the benefit of the doubt, and quickly get the banhammer if they insist on arguing with the basics.

Yay, problem solved!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:50 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yay, problem solved!

You convinced me, to honor your navel-gazing idealization of ignorance, I propose the following changes to metafilter.

1: All comments should use only words from Dr. Seuss primers.
2: We should all post under the influence of drugs that inhibit the formation of long-term memory and lacking a site history of longer than 12 hours.

I look forward to saying things about Lady Gaga and the Oobleck, again, and again, and again.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:18 AM on February 3, 2011


And slowly, it has dawned on me how seemingly useless and unproductive these discussions are on the internet.

Mr. Blatcher, I don't tend to keep track of people's contributions in thread, frankly. But based on your previous statement that you think that society takes rape plenty seriously already I can't help but notice yours. Especially paired with this:

Really. It's great that you do this, but not everyone will. In fact the majority probably won't. You can call it intentional and willful ignorance if you like, but that's still not going to convince people to do their homework.

Based on what you've said in this thread, I think that's exactly what I'm going to call it.

It's just really hard for me to watch so many of you pour your hearts and minds into considering these issues and sharing personal experiences and really shining a light down into the well here -- and have that be met with loud, lazy responses that seem to come straight from the brainstem.

There's something to that. If there's anything that getting a little older and mellower has taught me, it's that there is nothing more juvenile than the insistence on whacking a hornet's nest when people that are irritated and hurt by that care a lot more than the pleasure that you get from smacking it. Listen to people. What does it hurt you to be a bit more sensitive with your word choice? To avoid saying things that open wounds? And when you've been put on notice that your words are doing so, to not just do it again, but to escalate the situation far beyond the initial somewhat innocuous triggers?

It's so easy to attempt to come up with an analogous situation to make people understand, but that is a trap in such discussions: people can then focus on "but that's not analogous!" instead of paying attention to what you're saying. So I won't do that. Instead, I will invite the reader to come up with their own analogue. Imagine that you're in a particular group of people. And someone near you at a party that's tossing out jokes that are if not dismissive of your particular group of people, actually disparaging them.

So you approach this person and say "you know, I am a bit offended by that and would prefer you not disparage my group!" Instead of stopping, this person at the party starts telling even worse jokes about your group, while his/her friends are now pointing at you, laughing, and jeering you.

Now go back to what the imaginary group is. Does it matter what the group is? Isn't this person a jerk?
posted by norm at 7:27 AM on February 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Just out of curiosity, was anyone's mind changed or opinion reversed on this topic after reading the 800 or so comments here?
posted by notmydesk at 7:42 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like to believe that people are inherently good and that situations like this arise out of ignorance and not evil. I also assume that most people would rather not be ignorant, so providing them with more information is generally a good thing.

Trick is, even if you are dealing with someone who made a comment in well-meaning ignorance, there is a huge risk of things going south. Nobody like to be told they are ignorant, and well-meaning people really do not like to be confused with the evil. So there's this very fine line that needs to be walked in order to being someone happily to edification without hackles getting up.

The Internet, as a faceless whole, really can't walk that line well. There is a nuance to expression and physical conversation that just can't be copied online, bonds of relationships that cement trust that are hard to form in an anonymous environment. Even if someone is wrong, it's hard to directly tell them they are wrong without setting off a huge production where people end up entrenched in their positions and the resulting mess causes more sturm and drang than the initial ill-thought out comment.

I know that this places an unfair burden on the educator, but such is life. The ignorant person doesn't know that they're ignorant, maybe even doesn't know that they did something wrong in the first place, and suddenly someone is asking them to change their ways. Their natural tendency is going to be defensive. It sucks for the educator, but if they really do want to help create a better world and feel that the ignorant person can be educated, then it falls to them to think about the best way to do it.

Care shown in approach should, I'd like to believe, lead to care shown in consideration.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:44 AM on February 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


zarq: Gallows humor is a coping mechanism, yes. However, forcing it on victims regardless of whether they are capable of processing it as such is an incredibly shitty thing to do.


First, I should have clarified more. Using my particular family is probably a poor example because that is how we generally operate. We have dark senses of humor, and when my cousin was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, a couple days before she went in for an operation she and her family held a party called "I'm losing my mind this week!"

As for forcing the humor upon someone, are you saying that a subject that is admittedly painful for a segment of the population should never be made light of in any way, shape or form? Of course if I knew a subject was too painful for someone I would not say these kinds of things to their faces. My nephew died a few hours after he was born several years ago. Of course I don't make dead baby jokes in front of my sister-in-law (nevermind that they are rarely funny to begin with) but at the same time, I am not going to insist that people should never make those kinds of jokes in public forums.

Was PA's response shitty? Probably. Unexpected? Hell no. Is this concept that because someone could be offended or hurt by some things one can never make any sort of humor or comedy based them a good thing? Good lord no.

Ues I completely expected people to say that exact kind of response, and frankly, there are ALWAYS going to be trigger situations in life, and one of the ways that victims and PTSD sufferers recover is learning to find ways to deal with these triggers. I am never in favor of any sort of implied censorship, no matter whether I disagree or not. You don't like it? Say so, and jsut stop watching/reading/listening.
posted by Leth at 7:49 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


notmydesk: This thread specifically, no. Other threads like this on MeFi and MeTa over the years, yeah.
posted by ODiV at 7:57 AM on February 3, 2011


Mr. Blatcher, I don't tend to keep track of people's contributions in thread, frankly. But based on your previous statement that you think that society takes rape plenty seriously already I can't help but notice yours.

It was more than one statement and it was more fleshed out than you're presenting.

You convinced me, to honor your navel-gazing idealization of ignorance...

I don't see any point in having a discussion with you. You insist that things have to be like this and if someone says things are like that, then they're being willfully ignorant. From the starting gate, the conversation has already degraded, IMO, into a contest of wills against a human brick wall. There's not much point in further communication, you know.

So, "Yay, problem solved!"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:57 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


You don't like it? Say so, and jsut stop watching/reading/listening.

That's exactly what lots of PA critics have been doing, and it's earned some of them additional harassment.

Also, "say your piece and then just tune out any and all response to it" seems to be reflect a divide in the way different people communicate. Because that's EXACTLY the tactic employed by a lot of the PA supporters in this thread, if you hadn't noticed. As if wanting to explore the issue through actual dialogue, to hear AND be heard, to thoroughly pick apart the problem, the is only the provenance of weak, oversensitive killjoys.

Sorry, but that's just not how everyone communicates their hurt/anger/dismay.
posted by hermitosis at 8:03 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just out of curiosity, was anyone's mind changed or opinion reversed on this topic after reading the 800 or so comments here?

Mine was sort of changed near the beginning of the thread. Although appreciative of the need for sensitivity in rape issues, (due in great part, like ODiV, to other MeFi and MeTa threads over the years) I was hesitantly inclined to try arguing that the original comic was, although tasteless, not conducive of rape or rape culture. I still might make that argument on some other occasion but XQUZYPHYR's comment lined up the overall issue for me: that debate over the original comic is immaterial because it's PA's response to the whole thing that effectively condones rape culture, and that they pretty much passed ne plus ultra when they made and started selling a "Team Dickwolves" t-shirt.
posted by XMLicious at 8:07 AM on February 3, 2011


hermitosis: "It's just really hard for me to watch so many of you pour your hearts and minds into considering these issues and sharing personal experiences and really shining a light down into the well here -- and have that be met with loud, lazy responses that seem to come straight from the brainstem. And it seems like there are people I rarely see on the site who are drawn to threads like these, compelled to speak up and reinforce their dim vision of the status quo.

And it's not fair of me to get involved in threads like these because I can't say for sure I am participating in good faith. When I think of all my loved ones who have been, for example, raped or sexually assaulted, or who have been deliberately harmed because of their conspicuous difference from the rest of the pack, and I think about how brave and generous they are in spite of it all, I feel I owe it to them (and to myself) to attack the delusions of ignorance, privilege, or hatefulness whenever I see them. I get blinded by this and I lash out.

Like earlier, when women's comparably greater risk of being raped was pointed out, and a few people responded to that with suspicion and/or disbelief. I'm so glad other people were able to come back reasonably with statistics and clarify the matter, because frankly I had to take a walk at that point. The very real risks and hardships that so many everyday people face are invisible to a shocking amount of people. And when people come out in support of the PA crew, all I hear is "I AM NOT INTERESTED IN HEARING ABOUT THESE PROBLEMS." That's what privilege really gets you -- the choice to have most of your interactions work only one way. People who are used to that really aren't equipped to communicate in a setting like this, but too often it's their input that winds up setting the parameters of a discussion.
"

In her day, Andrea Dworkin wrote extensively about male privilege and the ways women were traditionally silenced by society and circumstance when they had been victims of assault, battery, rape or molestation. She pointed out that the culture of the 60's and 70's forced women, as second-class citizens on those issues both economically and legally, into maintaining a "respectful" silence. White and black rape victims in those years were often accused of racism, despite the fact that most rapes being committed had been shown in studies to be intraracial. They were also commonly accused of lying for monetary gain.

Back then, shame featured prominently in the way rape victims were treated. It still does. And to expand Dworkin's points so they apply to both sexes, by outing themselves, male rape victims may believe that they are declaring to the world that they weren't man enough to prevent being sexually assaulted. Male and female rape victims have historically been told that being raped was their fault, for the way they dressed or acted. Since no one asks to be raped because by definition that wouldn't be rape, if the alleged victim could be shown to have asked for it, that would render their accusation baseless.

A lot has changed since then. And yet it hasn't. We say that the Metafilter community does threads on this topic well, and by and large I think we do. Yet you're right: threads about rape regularly feature a variety of dismissive, silencing tactics, which may inadvertently play into normal psychological "aftermath" responses by the victim to their rape. They range from disdainful comments like the 'oh, people love to be offended. they should just let it go already' tone voiced by some throughout this thread. Or this specific comment made in a thread on MeFi back in 2009: "Now on the tails side of the coin, there are ladies that dress like (to put in bluntly) sluts. Low cut shirt with plenty of cleavage, shorts showing off legs, and makeup... whole 9 yards. It's almost like looking for trouble." No, I'm not linking to it. The subtext (and it's not so underlying,) is that rape victims should shut up.

In real life I am not a whiner. I am not an especially angry person, people often comment on my calmness. But over the past few years, something has changed and I just can't suffer fools the way I used to. After three decades of compulsively lowering my eyes in the face of confrontation and just meekly scuttling off, I just stopped. It's scary! But for now I am done "letting it go," online and in real life, and that's why I'll probably eventually have to stop commenting on MetaFilter.

hermitosis, I do think you participate in good faith. You speak from the heart. A lot of us do.

You're right. Some folks do want to reinforce a particularly damaging status quo. But one of the things I personally appreciate about this place is that people are willing to speak their minds and can do so eloquently -- especially on this topic. I'm happy you're not meekly scuttling off and letting it go. No one should be allowed to silence anyone else through shame -- especially on this topic.

And speaking of shame, in recent months, someone in Meta suggested that to be taken seriously, rape victims should have to announce they were raped to the group in a sort of public testimonial litmus test, or else not be taken seriously. BUT the ensuing conversation (and apology) was interesting and kinda gratifying. It's not all negative, you see. And sometimes, speaking out against silencing/dismissive/shaming tactics -- even inadvertent ones -- does work.

I hope you'll continue to speak up.
posted by zarq at 8:08 AM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


But they aren't making constant, omnipresent jabs and digs at someone who has suffered so pedestrian a humiliation as their favorite sports team losing - they are digging and jabbing and needling some people, at least, whose lives were destroyed by rape.

I really dislike this trope, "destroyed by rape." Destruction is a terminal event, the actual definition of destroy being "to put an end to; extinguish." We shouldn't understate what a life-changing horrible thing it is, but "destroyed" writes someone off and plays into the "damaged goods" mentality that heaps on the harm already perpetrated on a rape victim. Someone's life didn't get raped, a person did, and the result of that violence will have differing results.

I don't think it's up to the rest of us to make a judgement about whether a life was "destroyed." I'm not comfortable using that description even for someone like Bill who was victimized and hurt by his assault so much that it eventually drove him to take his own life.

Despite his wounds and the weight of his sorrows he contributed greatly to the world in dozens of ways. He touched people even in his last writings. He crumble into nothing after his assault, and how he processed it and communicated to us in the years that followed is having a lasting positive effect. Not the fact of his assault, but him. He wasn't extinguished, he was changed. Changed in a way that robbed him of so much, but still - not destroyed.
posted by phearlez at 8:12 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just out of curiosity, was anyone's mind changed or opinion reversed on this topic after reading the 800 or so comments here?

I don't know that any of my conclusions would be any different but I feel like my understanding of certain perspectives has been somewhat expanded. I guess everyone can make their own minds up about whether that a good enough justification for the effort.
posted by phearlez at 8:20 AM on February 3, 2011


The criticism is not that the people at PA personally condone rape, or intentionally encouraged rape, it's that this particular strip read like the dozens of jokey rape references that's endemic in MMORPG culture.

I don't think that's true, though. As I said above, the whole point of the joke is that it's a terrible fate. If it had been, say, a joke about 'unlocking the rape achievement' then the criticism might be justified.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:26 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's up to the rest of us to make a judgement about whether a life was 'destroyed.'

I didn't mean to convey that all victims of rape automatically have their lives destroyed, I was just trying to say that it is statistically probable that some of the people being relentlessly needled are individuals who would qualify as having had their lives destroyed by rape, i.e. who experienced severe disruption and breakdowns across many facets of their life due to a rape. (Possibly some vocal critics, possibly some members of the PA community who have been silent through this whole thing.)

Certainly, you present persuasive reasoning for not using that phrase all the time or as the default description of someone who has been raped.
posted by XMLicious at 8:28 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher, you've continued to insist that rape culture is an unreasonably specialized and opaque term. I don't know why you continue to insist that as though it is a self-evident fact. It appears as though every single person in this conversation, including yourself, is well aware of what that term means. If they didn't know at the beginning, they knew... oh, what? Three comments later? There is not a single example of that term impeding this conversation, but you keep throwing up hypothetical objections to it. In every thread on every site that I've read regarding this particular chain of events, rape culture has either not appeared as a term or has been clearly understood by all involved.

So I continue to fail to see how the term is a problem. In a more general, abstract thread about "How to talk about feminism to laypersons?" then you might very well have a good point. Within the context of this conversation, and all other conversations on the same topic linked to in the OP's timeline, those concerns are demonstrably unfounded.

You said previously that it is slowly dawning on you that conversations like this are meaningless and accomplish nothing. Someone else asked, in a similar vein:

Just out of curiosity, was anyone's mind changed or opinion reversed on this topic after reading the 800 or so comments here?

Of course minds and opinions were changed. Of course these conversations accomplish a lot. I read every post on the timeline linked by the OP, including most of the comment threads on every post, and every single comment made here on MetaFilter. I've learned a ton about how different people communicate and react to offensive ideas and perceived attacks from outsiders. I've heard amazing personal anecdotes that provide real human faces to what are, as a white male, generally abstract concerns in my life. And I've developed sharper, more precise understandings of what I personally find offensive and why.

This conversation has, if nothing else, given me lots of tools that will help me in real life if I ever feel like a joke or statement is off color enough to warrant a comment or--alternately--if an attack on a joke or comment is off base enough to warrant my defense of the joke or comment. The thread has gone stunningly well, and almost all late-game shallow commentary comes from people who--if I can presume to make a presumption--appear not to have read the entire thread, much less the entirety of the debacle that sparked the thread, and thus have learned nothing from it. I'm assuming that I am not alone, and there are at least a handful of other people here who have come away from the thread with more than they brought to it.
posted by jsturgill at 8:32 AM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


(On the "lives were destroyed by rape" thing again, maybe to be clearer, I realized that what I was really trying to say was, "Imagine the worst story of a rape survivor you possibly can. A person like that may potentially be watching you wave your Dickwolves pennant and listening to you mention Dickwolves at every chance you get.")
posted by XMLicious at 8:35 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I don't think it's up to the rest of us to make a judgement about whether a life was 'destroyed.'"

How about when people say that they were severely affected by a traumatic event other than 9/11 we listen to them, that'd be a nice change.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:36 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher, you've continued to insist that rape culture is an unreasonably specialized and opaque term.

What are you talking about?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:38 AM on February 3, 2011


How about when people say that they were severely affected by a traumatic event other than 9/11 we listen to them, that'd be a nice change.

Okay. When they insist that instead of them trying to treat and move past that trauma, they prefer to define themselves primarily as a victim, so the entire world needs to walk on eggshells around them forever lest someone set them off ... can we stop listening to them?
posted by kafziel at 8:46 AM on February 3, 2011


It wasn't my intention to pick on you XMLicious - I think it's pretty clear in your usage what you meant to convey. I just have a bee in my bonnet about the use of "destroyed" when we talk about things that impact people. I share the drive to make sure we accurately convey just how deep this wound is, I just don't want to throw on other implications and insinuations.
posted by phearlez at 8:48 AM on February 3, 2011


Okay. When they insist that instead of them trying to treat and move past that trauma, they prefer to define themselves primarily as a victim, so the entire world needs to walk on eggshells around them forever lest someone set them off ... can we stop listening to them?

Sure, if you want to see things that way and do that, go right ahead. And there is a WORLD of difference between "stop listening to them" and "sell merchandise branded with what they objected to" and "engage them over months in heckling behavior." Seriously.
posted by lriG rorriM at 8:57 AM on February 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also, kafziel, there's a pretty clear assumption in your comment, that I'd like to address.

Someone can be treated and "move past that trauma" as you put it, AND maybe they still define themselves as a victim. I personally prefer to avoid "victim" language in talking about myself. That's part of how I cope, and it's the way that seems best and most natural for me. Other people do not have the same preferences. That doesn't mean that they haven't been working on their own stuff, or that the bad things that happened to them should be trivialized. They just have a different way of approaching it than you would, or than I do. If you don't want to engage with those folks, that's fine. But listening with compassion and trying to understand why and how these people are unhappy isn't the same thing as "walking on eggshells" either.
posted by lriG rorriM at 9:03 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just have a bee in my bonnet about the use of "destroyed" when we talk about things that impact people. I share the drive to make sure we accurately convey just how deep this wound is, I just don't want to throw on other implications and insinuations.

I have the same objection to the term "rape survivor", in contrast to terms like "cancer survivor". You "survive" cancer, because cancer can be a fatal illness. You don't "survive" rape.
posted by kafziel at 9:09 AM on February 3, 2011


ChurchHatesTucker, no one is arguing that the original strip intentionally had those effects. Personally, I wish they'd chosen something along the lines of "at night, the dickwolves come". I explicitly support their right to use whatever words they want, with the understanding that I have an equal right to do the same in response.

Unfortunately, they chose to include a word that causes a percentage of their audience to recall a terrible fate that happened to them personally. I don't judge the PA guys for that. I really don't. I accidentally stick my foot in my mouth fairly regularly in my life.

When that happens, I regard it as a mistake on my part. I believe it's my duty as a good person to take that "you hurt my feelings" statement at face value, assume good intentions on the part of the other party, and do what I can to make amends. I don't think the strip, once created, should have been pulled. But an actual apology should have been made. As it was said up-thread, being a nice person doesn't make me a loser.

What I would not do was mock the folks I'd hurt in various ways, dis-invite them from an event I was planning, and then announce that I'd attend that event wearing one of the shirts I made to commemorate the episode.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 9:09 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, they chose to include a word that causes a percentage of their audience to recall a terrible fate that happened to them personally.

So we shouldn't mention 'rape' at all? That seems oddly regressive to me.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:14 AM on February 3, 2011


(Emphasis is mine)

sur·vive (sr-vv)
v. sur·vived, sur·viv·ing, sur·vives
v.intr.
1. To remain alive or in existence.
2. To carry on despite hardships or trauma; persevere: families that were surviving in tents after the flood.
3. To remain functional or usable: I dropped the radio, but it survived.

v.tr.
1. To live longer than; outlive: She survived her husband by five years.
2. To live, persist, or remain usable through: plants that can survive frosts; a clock that survived a fall.
3. To cope with (a trauma or setback); persevere after: survived child abuse.

[Middle English surviven, from Old French sourvivre, from Latin supervvere : super-, super- + vvere, to live; see gwei- in Indo-European roots.]
sur·vivor n.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.



survive [səˈvaɪv]
vb
1. (tr) to live after the death of (another) he survived his wife by 12 years
2. to continue in existence or use after (a passage of time, an adversity, etc.)
3. Informal to endure (something) I don't know how I survive such an awful job
[from Old French sourvivre, from Latin supervīvere, from super- + vīvere to live]
survivable adj
survivability n

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003



survivor [səˈvaɪvə]
n
1. a person or thing that survives
2. (Law) Property law one of two or more specified persons having joint interests in property who lives longer than the other or others and thereby becomes entitled to the whole property
survivorship n

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003
posted by zarq at 9:20 AM on February 3, 2011


For gut to mention: yeah, my opinions have been changed by this thread. I've learned some fairly easy things I can do to make the world a better place for some number of folks around me, and I've learned that this episode with PA was a lot less of an aberration than I initially thought. Som good, some bad, in other words.

Still, amazed by the high quality of the discussion here. FWIW, I wouldn't have posted it anywhere else. Apologies if I made the moderator's lives more difficult by doing so.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 9:26 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, um, let me get this straight. "Victim" is out, because that's defining themselves in terms of the rape. "Survivor" is out because it does the same (I presume this is another facet of the objection to the term) AND because no rapes are life threatening and if someone's life WAS threatened during a rape, well, surely we should more accurately call it "near murder" or something?

I'm trying hard to stay articulate, because I really don't get this sudden focus on terminology.

Please, just stop. I get that you don't understand or like how a lot of people label themselves with regard to rape. It bugs you. Maybe you think it trivializes people who survive cancer to share the "survivor" term with people who went through something... I can't say less, because hell, mine wasn't less. Who went through something different. It's comparing apples and wombats, anyway, for crying out loud. This isn't a contest of who suffers more, who hurts more. You don't get on well with people who are vocal about this kind of traumatic event? That's fine. But don't heckle them. The PA guys heckled. That's lousy.
posted by lriG rorriM at 9:26 AM on February 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


ChurchHatesTucker, I'm not arguing that it should never be mentioned. I'm arguing that it should not be mentioned carelessly.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 9:28 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


So we shouldn't mention 'rape' at all? That seems oddly regressive to me.

I don't think that's it. When we do mention it and someone says, "Could you not mention that around me? It makes me uncomfortable." you either say, "Alright, that's reasonable." or "I'm sorry you found it uncomfortable, but in this medium I will mention rape in this way again."

You don't say, "What's your problem? You're so fragile that words hurt you? I can't believe you think I support rape! Look everyone, I'm supporting rape culture!"

You can, of course say these things, but people will probably think less of you and berate you for it. And then you'll feel like you have to defend yourself further. And then we'll start talking about the first amendment for some reason even though I'm Canadian. And then we'll get into whether being an asshole is something that can be helped or not. Then we'll start talking about free will vs. determinism. And then we'll hopefully get drunk and forget the whole thing.

Okay, so I got a little off topic there at the end, but you get the drift. That how I see things anyway.
posted by ODiV at 9:28 AM on February 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


robocop is bleeding: I know that this places an unfair burden on the educator, but such is life.

In education we have this little thing called (warning for Brandon and Felix) the Zone of Proximal Development. You teach and discuss at at the level that's challenging. For a practical examples, you don't teach long division in a calculus class, and you don't talk about the differences between animals and plants in a quantitative genetics class.

The complaints about the initial strip didn't appear on an educational site for people unfamiliar with feminism. They appeared on feminist Web sites and communities with an extended history of discussion about rape culture. Demanding that a discussion that's taken place in more than 50 threads over several years return to square one every time isn't remotely reasonable.

Brandon Blatcher: You insist that things have to be like this and if someone says things are like that, then they're being willfully ignorant.

No. What I'm saying is that RTFM and RTFF (read the fucking faq) are perfectly valid responses when someone comes into an advanced discussion with 50+ pages of history and gets pissy over the use of terms with decades of theory behind them. If you refuse to RTFF or skim the history (both of which are helpfully provided for you on the page) you're willfully ignorant. If you then proceed to lecture a community about the "real" definition of a term you just encountered yesterday, you're both a fool and a dick. If you insist that the people in question really mean X when the FAQ and history clearly say Y, it's a strawman argument.

Furthermore, RTFF and lurk before posting has been an expected norm for participation in online culture going back to wild and wooly days of MUDs and usenet. We're not talking about anything new here.

Jumping into discussions in ignorance to defend your knee-jerk ideas about definition isn't a virtue. Granted it's a staple of certain forms of argumentation. Creationists will insist on arguing the big bang and abiogenesis as a challenge to evolutionary biologists, and it's positively a cliche in religious debate to say that atheists are not atheist or Christians are not Christian according to this or that definition. But again, this form of definitional wankery isn't a virtue and doesn't get you very far.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:36 AM on February 3, 2011 [11 favorites]


When we do mention it and someone says, "Could you not mention that around me? It makes me uncomfortable."

When you initially mention it, and someone responds with, "Mentioning that is rape apologism and re-victimizes the victims of rape", right off the bat, then defensive outrage is entirely justified.
posted by kafziel at 9:43 AM on February 3, 2011


ChurchHatesTucker: “As I said above, the whole point of the joke is that it's a terrible fate. If it had been, say, a joke about 'unlocking the rape achievement' then the criticism might be justified.”

I've talked a lot above about why it seems to me this joke is rape-minimizing; because it's intended as a kind of cartoon violence, something so extreme it's unimaginable. Of course rape in this context is supposed to be something bad; but again, that's beside the point. A Tom and Jerry cartoon isn't supposed to imply that being blown sky-high by a stick of dynamite is good. But the comic effect also relies on the whole set-up being silly, right? If a Tom and Jerry cartoon showed an actual cat being actually eviscerated by the effects of explosives, it would cease to be funny and just be morbid.

I have to say that I understand the comic intentionality here. The point is that "dickwolves" are the ridiculous, cartoonish part of the equation here, right? And that's supposed to create the comic distance that allows us to laugh at it. "Dickwolves" are silly, utterly improbable mythical beasts. It's funny, right?

But they're not where the trouble comes. The trouble is with, as I've said, those three words: "raped to sleep." And as I've pointed out, some people have been "raped to sleep." It isn't an inane, improbable, cartoonishly hideous thing. It's tragically, horrifically real for some people. And the sheer vividness of that phrase, as inadvertent or unintentional as it may be, is not a fun thing for a lot of people to meet with if they've had those experiences.

ChurchHatesTucker: “So we shouldn't mention 'rape' at all? That seems oddly regressive to me.”

No. The suggestion is that we shouldn't mention 'rape' in a joke on the internet. There's a vast difference there. There may be shades of meaning between a joke being "about" rape and a joke "mentioning" rape, but the mention in a joking context is probably across the line. Is that really demanding so much – that people give it the sensitivity and respect it deserves?
posted by koeselitz at 9:54 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


kafziel:
If you produce a work that is widely circulated like Penny Arcade then you'd better get ready to be outraged all the time then, because people are going to say things you don't agree with about it constantly. They will say things that are both true and false about your work in both the most tactful and the most accusatory ways possible and everything in between.

As I've said before, I'd likely be defensive if someone said I was perpetuating rape culture too. It's tough to admit shit like this so I can definitely sympathize with that reaction. But I'm sure I do perpetuate it in many ways, just like pretty much all of us do sometimes.

Hell, I'm sure if you go back and read my post history I've been overly defensive about stuff like this many times. (I've been on here almost a decade now!)
posted by ODiV at 9:56 AM on February 3, 2011


Demanding that a discussion that's taken place in more than 50 threads over several years return to square one every time isn't remotely reasonable.

I don't think I'm demanding that and agree that such a demand would be unreasonable. I guess it comes down to the goals of the group doing the discussion over those 50 threads. If they want to discuss the matter as an example of the current state of things and perhaps use it as a citation for some future endeavor, that's one thing. If they want to affect a change on people who are (again, I hope) well-meaning but ultimately ignorant of the impact of their expression on others, then making their stance as approachable as possible is probably a good idea.

Of course, this only really applies if that group reached out in the first place. If they were having a private discussion, then yes, common decency states that one should read the rules/faqs/manual before diving in. But again, we're talking about people getting defensive and all hackled-up. I'm not sure what the best approach here is, I just feel that if I found out that some corner of the Internet was having a long discussion about me where from my cursory first impression it seemed to imply that I was supporting something horrible when that was not my initial intent, the urge to go in guns a'blazing would be pretty strong.

I guess what I'm wondering is, if in the calculus class, someone only familiar with long division wandered in, and for whatever reason the calculus folks decided that the newcomer needed to learn their message of advanced math, what would be the best way to bring it up? How do you keep the newcomer in the class without feeling stupid for not knowing the terms, ganged up on, and still hopefully open to the class's viewpoint?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:57 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


ODiV: "I don't think that's it. When we do mention it and someone says, "Could you not mention that around me? It makes me uncomfortable." you either say, "Alright, that's reasonable." or "I'm sorry you found it uncomfortable, but in this medium I will mention rape in this way again.""

That works fine on a personal basis, but when you have a widely read comic on the internet? It effectively means that they can't make rape jokes. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but its something they have to choose to do.
posted by charred husk at 9:57 AM on February 3, 2011


kafziel: “When you initially mention it, and someone responds with, "Mentioning that is rape apologism and re-victimizes the victims of rape", right off the bat, then defensive outrage is entirely justified.”

Nobody said that was "rape apologism." And the whole point is that it does re-victimize the victims of rape. If it didn't, we wouldn't even be talking about this.

At some point, people who are being called on something need to cool off and accept that society demands that people take responsibility for their actions and try to make things right.

I know that takes a lot. It's not fun to be called on a mistake you've made, especially if that mistake was not intentional. It takes some bigness of soul. But it's necessary for us to move society forward to a better place.
posted by koeselitz at 9:59 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Leth : You don't like it? Say so, and jsut stop watching/reading/listening.
hermitosis : That's exactly what lots of PA critics have been doing, and it's earned some of them additional harassment.

The ones that "just" stopped watching/reading/listening have nothing to do with this.
The ones who loudly proclaimed their intention to stop watching/reading/listening, but carried on arguing, have endured some extra harassment.


jsturgill : You believe [...they are...] acting as though they are "entitled to recompense"
pla : Do you believe their critics would just nod contentedly and go away?
jsturgill : It's several months too late for that course of action.

So, um... How does that differ from the original accusation? Or does this count as one of those "clouds in my coffee" scenarios that always bother me - "Well, yes, this song is about you, but you'd probably think that anyway"?
posted by pla at 9:59 AM on February 3, 2011


Are you fat, ugly or slutty?

Yay, gamers.
posted by empath at 10:00 AM on February 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't think that's it. When we do mention it and someone says, "Could you not mention that around me? It makes me uncomfortable." you either say, "Alright, that's reasonable." or "I'm sorry you found it uncomfortable, but in this medium I will mention rape in this way again."

Hrm. The first is an inherently unreasonable request on the internet (I'm talking here about what you type on your own or a 'neutral' site) unless it's something that's beyond the pale to even mention. I don't believe the original strip falls into that category. Rape is presented as a bad thing. I think we can all agree on that (that it's a bad thing, that is. Whether the strip communicated that seems to be a matter of interpretation.)

The second strip is sort of saying the second. Oddly, they got a lot of criticism for that one in particular, because they were 'missing the point' or 'knocking down a straw man.' They were kind of in a no-win scenario there, because the original criticisms don't even make sense if you (and I assume Gabe and Tycho fall into this group) think that the original was presenting rape as a horrible thing.

After that it seems to have become a pissing contest. Sadly predictable.

A Tom and Jerry cartoon isn't supposed to imply that being blown sky-high by a stick of dynamite is good. But the comic effect also relies on the whole set-up being silly, right? If a Tom and Jerry cartoon showed an actual cat being actually eviscerated by the effects of explosives, it would cease to be funny and just be morbid.

Well, yeah. Are you against showing Tom & Jerry cartoons?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:00 AM on February 3, 2011


charred husk: I think you misread what I wrote there.
posted by ODiV at 10:01 AM on February 3, 2011


defensive outrage is entirely justified.

Ok. I guess this is where we just have to agree to disagree. Because while it may or may not be "justified" as a reaction, it's neither productive nor mature. It's certainly natural as a reaction - but you have to step past that first reaction if you actually want any good to come of it. And just leaving it the hell alone is surely better than going "nyah nyah nyah dickwolves dickwolves dickwolves!!!!" as loudly as possible.

The stuff that Leigh Alexander said here really rang true to me. Just in case you didn't (or don't intent to) read it, here's the bit that seems most relevant to me right this second:

"I do understand it sucks a lot to be at the center of an echo chamber that seems to be saying you're a bad person because you made a joke you didn't intend as offensive. But the willful refusal to even consider "hey, we may have been wrong here, and we feel bad that some of our fans are hurt" just seems weird, and inconsistent with the smart, fun tone I've always enjoyed about PA.

People are going on Twitter to try to publicly harass and insult rape survivors over this. They're leaving harassing comments for one of the most vocal objectors in this conversation claiming she must be fat, ugly and bitter to be insulted by rape jokes. You guys. This is fucking sick.
"
posted by lriG rorriM at 10:02 AM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


When you initially mention it, and someone responds with, "Mentioning that is rape apologism and re-victimizes the victims of rape", right off the bat, then defensive outrage is entirely justified.

Right... but... subsequently definitely re-victimizing the victims of rape, by doing stuff like making t-shirts and pennants for "Team Dickwolves"... that's not justified, right? Even if it can be categorized as "just part of the defensive outrage"?

And in fact doesn't doing so either demonstrate that they didn't even understand the initial criticism, or actually really don't give a shit whether in this sort of way they hurt people who have been raped, which is basically what the original accusation was?
posted by XMLicious at 10:08 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


ChurchHatesTucker: “Well, yeah. Are you against showing Tom & Jerry cartoons?”

Did you read my comment? I explained in exactly what way this was different from Tom & Jerry cartoons: because of its (again, unintentional) vivid depiction of the horrors of trauma that many people have actually suffered.
posted by koeselitz at 10:10 AM on February 3, 2011


Did you read my comment? I explained in exactly what way this was different from Tom & Jerry cartoons: because of its (again, unintentional) vivid depiction of the horrors of trauma that many people have actually suffered.

Did you read your comment?

Oklahoma. 9/11. Iraq. Afganistan. Plenty of people have suffered from explosions. By that logic, we should ban pretty much every cartoon ever.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:16 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Violet Cypher: "It seems to me that there are two ways to express the feeling that someone has breached common expectations with something they did or said. "

Hi, hello and welcome to Metafilter.

Your comment reminds me of Jay Smooth's How To Tell People They Sound Racist: "When somebody picks my pocket I'm not going to be chasing him down to find out if he feels like he's a thief deep down in his heart, I'm going to be chasing him down so I can get my wallet back. I don't care what he is, but I need to hold him accountable for what he did. (...) Holding each person accountable for the impact of their words and actions."
posted by boo_radley at 10:18 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't mean to come across on the not-sensitive-to-peoples'-traumas side of this, but I do think calling that comic a "vivid depiction" of anything is the kind of exaggeration that is allowing the Penny Arcade side of the argument to continually misinterpret what they're being accused of. I don't doubt that it triggers unpleasant things...but how that's a vivid depiction of anything real is beyond me.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:18 AM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


I mean, it couldn't be less vivid, right? The problem is that for people with triggers it doesn't need to be vivid at all. But that's not the same as being a "vivid depiction of rape."
posted by neuromodulator at 10:22 AM on February 3, 2011


ChrisHatesTucker: I don't think that's true, though. As I said above, the whole point of the joke is that it's a terrible fate. If it had been, say, a joke about 'unlocking the rape achievement' then the criticism might be justified.

Well, here we get into a wonderful little tool in how to interpret things: the death of the author. Most texts and statements are open to ambiguity and multiple readings. Taking one single reading of a text and insisting that it's the only possible or reasonable one doesn't work that well. This works on both sides of the equation. Supporters of PA seem to be insistent on giving benefit of the doubt to PA authors while reading complaints about the strip in the worst possible light.

And as I keep pointing out. Offensive humor is offensive. If you use it, people are going to be reasonably offended. It's the cost of using that form of humor. But if you use offensive humor and proceed to attack (repeatedly to the point of trolling) the people who don't find it funny, the problem's gone beyond just a single strip.

ChrisHatesTucker: So we shouldn't mention 'rape' at all? That seems oddly regressive to me.

No one is arguing this. But how to talk about rape, portray it, and joke about it is a prickly and controversial subject. And if you choose to go there you should have a thick enough skin to graciously accept the fact that people will disagree with you.

kafziel: When you initially mention it, and someone responds with, "Mentioning that is rape apologism and re-victimizes the victims of rape", right off the bat, then defensive outrage is entirely justified.

Yeah, but that's not what happened here. Let's recap:
1: "big name" webcomic creators publish dickwolves rape joke on their own Web site
2: woman uses dickwolves rape joke as an example of why she personally hates rape humor in general on a moderated feminist Web site with several years of history discussing rape humor and sexism in games and game culture.

The tone argument here seems to be that moderated feminist Web sites should be seen as equivalent to a face-to-face dialog with the artists being critiqued. (Note that critique doesn't necessarily mean, "you're a bad person.") Should I be more cautious here in my statement that The King's Speech whitewashed the Nazi sympathies of its characters, on the grounds that the writer and director might see that criticism? Should the tone of political posts here on metafilter be pitched to the metafilter community, or the politicians being criticized?

There's a ton of hand-wringing over the fact that some not-nice things were said about a single PA strip on a completely unrelated Web site. And that's just the cost of being a "big name" in a given area.

If PA has a legitimate point that you shouldn't read them if you don't like their flavor of humor. Shakesville has a legitimate point that you should read them if you don't like angry criticism of how rape is portrayed in media.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:24 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


robocop is bleeding: I guess what I'm wondering is, if in the calculus class, someone only familiar with long division wandered in, and for whatever reason the calculus folks decided that the newcomer needed to learn their message of advanced math, what would be the best way to bring it up? How do you keep the newcomer in the class without feeling stupid for not knowing the terms, ganged up on, and still hopefully open to the class's viewpoint?

On both of the sites in question, FAQs and 101 discussions are helpfully linked off the front page and sidebar.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:27 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wanted to point out what I believe to be an excellent use of humor to call serious attention to the severity of rape. From last night's daily show:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-february-2-2011/rape-victim-abortion-funding

I can totally understand certain members of this site not being able to remotely laugh at this video. I think the greater good is achieved by informing people who would have no idea otherwise what the republicans are trying to do.
posted by andruwjones26 at 10:27 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The complaints about the initial strip didn't appear on an educational site for people unfamiliar with feminism. They appeared on feminist Web sites and communities with an extended history of discussion about rape culture.

Sites which allow themselves to be indexed by Google. Which means if they start discussing an individual person by name, they might as well just be e-mailing their comments to his inbox.
posted by straight at 10:32 AM on February 3, 2011


So we should all consider our comments here to have the same gravity as if they'd been emailed straight to the people in question?
posted by hermitosis at 10:35 AM on February 3, 2011


Except one requires their own desire to participate to a much greater extent, straight.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:36 AM on February 3, 2011


So we should all consider our comments here to have the same gravity as if they'd been emailed straight to the people in question?

If you're criticizing a person by name? Yes.
posted by straight at 10:39 AM on February 3, 2011


Well, yeah. Are you against showing Tom & Jerry cartoons?

I talked to my mom yesterday and she mentioned that my aunt's neighbor just blew himself up with dynamite. Apparently he had an old crate in his house and finally decided to get rid of it, but as I'm sure most of you know from teevee, old dynamite is really unstable after the nitro has seeped out of the binder. Destroyed his house and completely vaporized himself. We had a good laugh about it, but I imagine his family might not find it funny.

I guess the moral of the story is to know your audience.
posted by electroboy at 10:40 AM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oklahoma. 9/11. Iraq. Afganistan. Plenty of people have suffered from explosions. By that logic, we should ban pretty much every cartoon ever.

There's a thing I'm trying to grasp at here, and I'm having a tough time really putting it into the right words, so I apologize in advance for it not being as well-formed as I usually aim for my MeFi comments to be.

I personally bristle at the equivocation of all types of violence with rape. I'm trying really hard not to get into a victim olympics here, but rape is different from the victims who suffered or perished in Oklahoma, 9/11, Iraq, etc. Why? Because rape is highly, incredibly personal. It's about power. It's about dominating and destroying (yeah, I'm ok with that terminology) someone on the most intimate level imaginable. It's an aggression that one person takes out against one single person, violating them and using as a tool something (sex) that's supposed to be special and reserved for someone you love and care deeply about, or at least like enough to hook up for one night.

Rape's closest cousin, I suppose, in the family of human-on-human violence is probably murder, but even then, rape is still sort of in its own class because the sexual aspect, because that sexual contact is something that's usually wonderful but has been perverted and used as a weapon, doesn't have an analogous scenario in murder.

Again, I'm not minimizing the PTSD or suffering that anyone who has survived any of those large-scale disasters listed above, or the pain that people who've lost loved ones to bombings, murders, etc. feel.

I just feel that, in this specific conversation about rape and why it is such a trigger event for some people, it's a fine but vital distinction that must be made.
posted by shiu mai baby at 10:42 AM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Offensive humor is offensive. If you use it, people are going to be reasonably offended.

The entire point of this seems to be whether or not the initial outrage was 'reasonable.'

But how to talk about rape, portray it, and joke about it is a prickly and controversial subject. And if you choose to go there you should have a thick enough skin to graciously accept the fact that people will disagree with you.

Yup. With you there.

1: "big name" webcomic creators publish dickwolves rape joke on their own Web site

And there we part. I think 'rape joke' should be reserved for times where a joke minimizes rape. Acknowledging that it exists within the context of a joke about something else (especially when exaggerated for comedic effect) is a very different thing.

The tone argument here seems to be that moderated feminist Web sites should be seen as equivalent to a face-to-face dialog with the artists being critiqued.

Yeah. That's sort of an odd thing about the internet. I think it's usually a good thing, but it does get messy.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:43 AM on February 3, 2011


What I mostly hear underneath the arguments of the PA defenders is something like, "I don't want to participate in a world where other people's thoughts and feelings are considered as valid as my own."

Look, you don't have to be a good, friendly, caring, responsible citizen of any community, whether online, local, or national. No one can make you. Is that what you need to hear?

Pretty anti-social though, at least toward people who aren't exactly like you.
posted by hermitosis at 10:48 AM on February 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm trying really hard not to get into a victim olympics here, but rape is different from the victims who suffered or perished in Oklahoma, 9/11, Iraq, etc. Why? Because rape is highly, incredibly personal. It's about power. It's about dominating and destroying (yeah, I'm ok with that terminology) someone on the most intimate level imaginable.

Actually, blowing somebody up is destroying them on a much more fundamental level.

What I mostly hear underneath the arguments of the PA defenders is something like, "I don't want to participate in a world where other people's thoughts and feelings are considered as valid as my own."

Oddly, I think my thoughts and feelings are valid as well. The conflicting zones are what is at issue here.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:55 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shakesville has a legitimate point that you should read them if you don't like angry criticism of how rape is portrayed in media.

...shouldn't read them if you don't like...

straight: Sites which allow themselves to be indexed by Google. Which means if they start discussing an individual person by name, they might as well just be e-mailing their comments to his inbox.

Let's set aside the problem that the original complaint did not do this, and only named PA fictional dopplegangers.

If this is the case, then we should shut down metafilter as responsible for hate mail delivered to the inbox of such notables as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sara Palin, George Bush, and Roman Polanski.

It's an insanely stupid line of argument. The contents of major periodicals were indexed long before the dominance of Google, and there's never been an argument that critics and editorialists must shelter the personal feelings of their subjects as if they were writing a personal letter.

ChrisHatesTucker: The entire point of this seems to be whether or not the initial outrage was 'reasonable.'

But then you contradict yourself in the next statement, rendering most of your discussion, moot.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:55 AM on February 3, 2011


But then you contradict yourself in the next statement, rendering most of your discussion, moot.

Um, no. But my discussion is moot, so...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:01 AM on February 3, 2011


Actually, blowing somebody up is destroying them on a much more fundamental level.

And I'm comfortable with the belief that there are a number of ways to destroy a person, not all of which requires them to end up in a body bag. It's clear we differ on this point.
posted by shiu mai baby at 11:01 AM on February 3, 2011


ChurchHatesTucker: "Oddly, I think my thoughts and feelings are valid as well."

And this is to your credit -- you're defending your point and interacting others in a non-hostile way. In some ways, you're really carrying the defense of the PA strip farther and more gracefully than PA has itself.
posted by boo_radley at 11:02 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


In some ways, you're really carrying the defense of the PA strip farther and more gracefully than PA has itself.

Yeah, I realize that. It's a disappointment for me, because I otherwise like those guys.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:04 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think they haven't been listening, and I bet we get a redeeming apology from them soon.

at least I'm hoping
posted by neuromodulator at 11:08 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Check this out then.
posted by hermitosis at 11:11 AM on February 3, 2011


The current newspost has been updated by both Gabe and Tycho this morning. Typically, Gabe is brief, and Tycho is not.
posted by Errant at 11:12 AM on February 3, 2011


neuromodulator: “I don't mean to come across on the not-sensitive-to-peoples'-traumas side of this, but I do think calling that comic a "vivid depiction" of anything is the kind of exaggeration that is allowing the Penny Arcade side of the argument to continually misinterpret what they're being accused of. I don't doubt that it triggers unpleasant things...but how that's a vivid depiction of anything real is beyond me... I mean, it couldn't be less vivid, right? The problem is that for people with triggers it doesn't need to be vivid at all. But that's not the same as being a "vivid depiction of rape."”

You're right; I misspoke. I meant to say that it is a vivid description of rape. And those three words remain one of the most painfully vivid descriptions of rape I've read in a long time. I wish somebody would acknowledge this, but I guess I shouldn't venture to hope.

Seriously, can you read those three words (I'd rather not type them again) a few dozen more times and think a little about the impact they have?
posted by koeselitz at 11:13 AM on February 3, 2011


"I'm sorry if I was a jerk to you earlier. That was unnecessary and had nothing to do with defending the comic. I was just being snarky." -cwgabriel
posted by pyrex at 11:13 AM on February 3, 2011


You know, regarding the whole why can't we joke about rape if we can joke about blowing someone up with dynamite, or murder in general, etc., I think the big difference comes when a segment of the population is the specific target of violent threats and acts.

I do think that most people will agree that it's not funny or edgy to joke about lynching and racial violence, and rape is a similar situation in that the people who are under threat are actually terrorized by these sorts of actions; it's not random, it's not impersonal, and it's not even unlikely. If you are a woman, or not white, or queer, or a certain religion ... there are people who do want to hurt for that reason only, and will if given the chance. If you are any of these things, it's not unlikely that you will be harassed and threatened, and you never know when somebody is going to decide to take it to the next level. It's not unreasonable to say "let's not contribute to an atmosphere that makes light of or normalizes these kinds of threats or actions."
posted by taz at 11:14 AM on February 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


You "survive" cancer, because cancer can be a fatal illness. You don't "survive" rape.

For the sake of someone I knew, I should point out: sometimes, you don't survive rape.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:23 AM on February 3, 2011 [20 favorites]


I never should have engaged them at all much less the way I did.

I'm not out to deconstruct people's apologies*, but this comes pretty close to as good as I suspect one is going to see. And you know what? He's totally right. They could have entirely blown off Shakesville and Pandagon and all the early complaints, not even discussing the issue, and this would have been a non-issue overall. I fully believe this.

*I lie. "I'm sorry if I was a jerk to you earlier. That was unnecessary and had nothing to do with defending the comic. I was just being snarky." As a recognized expert in apologies**, that "if" turns it from "I acknowledge my bad behavior" to "I conditionally acknowledge my possibly bad behavior". Words matter!

**Married for ten years.
posted by norm at 11:24 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is another point about PA's stance and the apparent opinion that they shouldn't be subjected to outrage because of their 'freedom of speech.'

The vocal outrage of others to any objectionable or offensive content they produce is a cost of doing business. Period. If you are making money being offensive, then the offense of others and the damage and drag upon your business is, in fact, a cost.

Costs are bills and all bills must be paid. You can act 'outraged at their outrage,' but you are only increasing your cost of doing business. Addressing the offended in a respectful fashion is always the cheapest route. You keep customers/viewers and let everyone know that despite the fact that you're being offensive for a laugh, you still respect your viewers.

Mike/Gabe's response was not respectful by any measure i know of.
posted by Fuka at 11:29 AM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Either you accept that someone might have a different interpretation of a text based on their personal experiences, beliefs, etc., etc., or you can continue the foolish and sisyphean task of continuing a 5-month-long argument that you have the only proper and correct interpretation of the strip. You can't really have it both ways here.

And in some ways, it doesn't matter that much because these associations and reactions are not logical. I find myself crying at movies I find politically risible and emotionally improbable. On a related topic, one of the things that's starting to bug me is the way in which rape has become the new Kick the Dog in adult dramatic media. (Not porn, but media that can use the word "fuck.") My logical reaction is that it's a bit of lazy writing. My emotional reaction is to be disturbed to the point of closing the browser and moving on to something else.

And if it's especially gratuitous and bad writing, I might rant about it in a location that might be searchable by Google. While I may be a tiny bit of an egoist, I really doubt that Anne Rice, or Stephen King (to name two "big names" I've criticized) give a shit about my opinion.

On preview: That's about as good of a way to handle it as I expect. The PA guys deserve credit for rising to the occasion.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:30 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the perception that rape is somehow worse than murder stems from a few things.

1. There aren't survivors of murder (although I suppose you can argue that any victim of a life threatening assault is a survivor).
2. Murder is relatively rare when compared with rape, regardless of whose statistics you believe.
3. The victims of murder are likely to be involved in some sort of criminal activity, making them much less sympathetic.
4. Because it's relatively rare and the victims aren't of the metafilter demographic (predominantly poor, young, black and male), most people here don't have a personal experience with murder.

My experience with it is pretty tangential. A friend of a friend that I hung out with occasionally was murdered while trying to score. And a few casual acquaintances (a neighbor, the cleaning woman from work) have told me about sons or nephews that have been murdered and it's absolutely heartbreaking. So I don't really have much time for the Shakesville piece that thinks murder jokes are just "a dark sense of humor", but rape jokes are beyond the pale.

My general take is that you may or may not recover from rape, but you'll never recover from murder.
posted by electroboy at 11:31 AM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


From the recent post by PA:

Kara was certainly upset to see someone mention on Twitter last night that it would be funny to come to my house and murder my wife and children. I know there are people who see themselves as being on our side that have made equally disgusting comments in the other direction. I want to make it very clear that I do not approve of this kind of bullshit.

Their tone changed completely as soon as it felt real to them--when someone they loved was made to feel threatened. I hope they understand, or come to understand, that there are vast, vast legions of people to whom rape constantly feels very real. That the emotions they are feeling right now is what they were generating in others throughout the later stages of this whole thing.
posted by jsturgill at 11:36 AM on February 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Their tone changed completely as soon as it felt real to them--when someone they loved was made to feel threatened. I hope they understand, or come to understand, that there are vast, vast legions of people to whom rape constantly feels very real. That the emotions they are feeling right now is what they were generating in others throughout the later stages of this whole thing.

This almost reads like an endorsement of death threats to me.
posted by empath at 11:40 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


My general take is that you may or may not recover from rape, but you'll never recover from murder.

Oh yeah. I was mugged at one point, and a seriously possible outcome of that situation was murder (We're pretty sure the same group shot a friend of mine--non-fatally thank the gods. (Also, I managed to conceal the fact that I was carrying thousands of dollars worth of electronics at the time)) So I get the whole victim thing.

What I don't get is anyone saying that you can't make jokes about mugging. Or murder. Or electronic theft. Or whatever.

Their tone changed completely as soon as it felt real to them--when someone they loved was made to feel threatened. I hope they understand, or come to understand, that there are vast, vast legions of people to whom rape constantly feels very real.

OK, that's just fucked up on several levels.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:40 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jerry Holkins (Tycho) has finally broken silence as well:
One of the most important essays I’ve ever read is by Philip K Dick, entitled “How To Build A Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later.” In it, he describes his idea that people can experience reality in such different ways that they lack a common language and therefore can’t relate to one another. He’s talking about schizophrenia, but he’s really talking (as is his way) about all people, everywhere.

The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown of communication... and there is the real illness.

If I haven’t been seen to discuss The Matter Of Dickwolves, this is the reason why. I’m not entirely certain that a conversation is possible. This isn’t mere cynicism - this is a fully rational assessment of the situation. The perspectives in play, the lenses, are too different: one side believes that not according the issue of rape the proper respect fuels a kind of perverse, perpetual engine called rape culture. There is a vast, specific lexicon and hundreds of tacit assumptions that gird it. The other side (that’s me, but not just me) believes that when it comes to expression nothing is off the table. It is the creator’s prerogative to create something - even something grotesque - out of anything they can find.

The fact of the matter is that the strip that started all this is about how empty, amoral, and borderline vile electronic heroism actually is. When I look at it now, it’s hard to imagine the chaos this comic stands at the center of. To the extent that it discusses rape, it is in the context of men and an imaginary creature. It’s certainly not the “joke.” The depicted scenario seemed so ridiculous to us, so unmoored from reality, and its indictment of player “morality” so complete, we felt like it was worth doing.

I have to tell you that we could never have conceived that people would construe the comic as pro-rape; this unfortunate fact may help you to understand everything that followed. I have a daughter who is not yet two years of age, and I am flooded with hormones every time I look at her which say “this, this is why you are here.” I don’t have any intention of going into specifics, but speculating about my own sexual history or the sexual history of the people we know is profoundly unwise. I will also tell you that people deal with horror of this kind in different ways, and one of them is with humor. There’s no monolithic “woman” just as there is no monolithic “feminist” just as there is no “man,” no “true” way of dealing with tragedy. We think of the strip as one of those glass tanks with the gloves that reach in, a safe place to experiment with dangerous ideas, which we’ve more or less been doing continually for twelve years.

We make disgusting, immoral comics on occasion to be sure; we’re used to correspondence in that vein. But when mail started to come in to the effect that we were perpetuating a fundamental social conspiracy to rape, we couldn’t believe what we were reading. That is the entire point of the second strip, which some people took as a literal response or apology, neither of which was its intended purpose. The only people who are pro-rape are rapists. The idea that you would have to specifically enunciate an idea like that is almost overwhelming. It’s self-evident. Hence, the comic.

I’ve received an incredible education during the ordeal, and been exposed to an amazing range of thought, from so-called “radical feminism” to a wholly opposed, Lewis Carroll, through-the-looking-glass mode of thinking called Men’s Rights Activism. It’s my default position to figure out what is wrong with me so that I can make peace, and the web has been very good to me in this regard. I have learned many new words and been altered irrevocably by the months long process. I’m not certain we’ll ever see eye to eye. But they’re not evil, or mendacious; I understand their intent, why this happened. I’m not interested in a repeat performance.

The other reason I didn’t speak about it is because I didn’t want to draw unwanted attention to the sources of complaint. Apparently, there are people who imagine they’re doing us some kind of a favor being jackasses and saying terrible things to critics of the site. Well, I’m a big boy, and I can handle my own shit. If you’re a reader, and not somebody just out for a scrap, if you love me at all you’ll put an end to that kind of bullshit. When someone believes something about you that isn’t true, the optimal strategy isn’t to prove to them time and time again that they were actually right all along - that you may be dismissed out of hand, that you have no merit. I assume that’s the opposite of you want.

Can we all agree that threatening to kill someone’s wife and children, as happened yesterday, has no place in any fucking society? This is why I had to say something: because people who imagine themselves to be “agents” of each side have now graduated to threats of actual, physical violence.

I don’t expect to mollify anyone with this - I think we’re long past that. When I look at the state of play now, dialectically, I don’t even recognize it: in the absence of my participation, in the abdication of my responsibility to communicate, the entire dialogue is based on a sequence of assumptions about each party so long that it’s impossible to untangle. It’s entirely possible that we will have lost readership, or worse, we’ll acquire a unique new demographic hungry for rape material that will be profoundly disappointed by jokes about tabletop wargames or treatises on forks. As I said, so much of this happened because I assumed that a genuine dialogue was impossible. Maybe I was wrong. It’s certainly happened before.

But I am who I am, in the end; the comics I make are the result of my damage. I can’t put it any more succinctly than that.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:40 AM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


I’ve received an incredible education during the ordeal, and been exposed to an amazing range of thought, from so-called “radical feminism” to a wholly opposed, Lewis Carroll, through-the-looking-glass mode of thinking called Men’s Rights Activism. Tycho

This seems to indicate what was suspected, that neither of them had any idea of what "rape culture" was and just made assumptions based on the English words involved. But it looks like at least Tycho learned a lot from this. I'm hoping that at the least they've learned what kind of influence they have over their fans.
posted by charred husk at 11:41 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm incredibly sad that it took threats of violence against their families to get the PA guys to respond in a more constructive manner than twitter baiting, but I'm glad to see that they stepped up and owned at least some of the multiple levels of clusterfuck.
posted by BZArcher at 11:49 AM on February 3, 2011


The fact of the matter is that the strip that started all this is about how empty, amoral, and borderline vile electronic heroism actually is. When I look at it now, it’s hard to imagine the chaos this comic stands at the center of.

I still don't think this is true. I think it was the response(s) to the one post that criticized the first strip that stand at the center of the chaos. The second strip was really sarcastic, and turned me more against them, and then the Dickwolves "team" merchandise sealed it. I was relatively neutral about the initial comic; I could understand what Shakesville was saying, but I didn't feel outraged. The follow-up actions from PA made me feel disgusted.
posted by taz at 11:52 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


OK, that's just fucked up on several levels.

I completely agree with those words, but probably not exactly the way you meant them.

This almost reads like an endorsement of death threats to me.

I didn't intend it that way, but I see how that reading of my words is valid. I should have written with greater clarity, and I will try to be better at that in the future. I hope no one takes what I've written and acts irresponsibly because of it, thinking that threats are a valid method of communication. It saddens me that someone threatened his family.
posted by jsturgill at 11:53 AM on February 3, 2011


Glad to see those posts. Overdue, obviously, but I get the feeling that Jerry at least explicitly understands that.

This almost reads like an endorsement of death threats to me.

Oh bullshit. jsturgill didn't say, "...and I think that's totally awesome, let's go threaten some more people for social good!" Noting that personal context may have led to Tycho having a revelation about how others in this whole mess experienced what he had been treating as a non-issue isn't an endorsement or celebration of bad acts creating that personal context.
posted by cortex at 11:55 AM on February 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


I completely agree with those words, but probably not exactly the way you meant them.

Really? How would you intend them?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:55 AM on February 3, 2011


This almost reads like an endorsement of death threats to me.

Actually I had the same thought as jsturgill. It's not an endorsement of death threats, just a bit of circumstantial irony. Violence and threats are funny and/or acceptable and/or easily ignored as long as it is happening to someone else, especially someone you don't know, at the hands of someone you don't know, right?

I'm sad that it had to literally get turned back around onto him before he realized how other people must have been feeling about these issues.
posted by hermitosis at 11:55 AM on February 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


Really? How would you intend them?

The words were, "OK, that's just fucked up on several levels."

"That," to you, is my statement. My statement is just fucked up on several levels.

"That," to me, is how and why any of this became real to him. That it happened now, because of a threat of violence, and not previously, as part of an ongoing dialog about the way his actions were affecting other people, is just fucked up on several levels.
posted by jsturgill at 12:00 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Violence and threats are funny and/or acceptable and/or easily ignored as long as it is happening to someone else, especially someone you don't know, at the hands of someone you don't know, right?

How is a fictional cartoon character printed on a t-shirt - which never mentioned rape or any other threatening act - in any way comparable to an actual threat of violence against an actual woman and her actual child?
posted by PenDevil at 12:03 PM on February 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


What I don't get is anyone saying that you can't make jokes about mugging. Or murder. Or electronic theft. Or whatever.

Yeah, I'm not really interested in debating what people can and can't joke about. Everyone draws their own line and has to live with the consequences. I was just adding my thoughts to the "rape is worse than murder" derail. You can't preach empathy about one horrific crime while passing off jokes about another as black humor, just because you're not personally affected by it.

I find it just as strange that people stage murder mystery parties as I do that there's a Law and Order show that's almost exclusively about rape.
posted by electroboy at 12:03 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sad that it had to literally get turned back around onto him before he realized how other people must have been feeling about these issues.

Totally expected.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:07 PM on February 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


in any way comparable to an actual threat of violence against an actual woman and her actual child?

Why don't you ask Courtney Stanton?

(my point being that that there were quite a few threats of violence - both rape and death - being levied at the "anti-PA" crowd before they got turned in the other direction)

(additionally, I'm not condoning threats in either direction, but the strong implication I got was that the threats against Mike/Jerry and their families somehow appeared from a vacuum, which is manifestly NOT the case. It didn't just go from "dickwolf shirt" to "death threats", there's been a steady escalation)
posted by Tknophobia at 12:11 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


"That," to me, is how and why any of this became real to him. That it happened now, because of a threat of violence, and not previously, as part of an ongoing dialog about the way his actions were affecting other people, is just fucked up on several levels.

Yes. My point exactly.

When it gets to the point of threats, it's off the chain. Regardless of which side you're on.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:12 PM on February 3, 2011


Sounds like Gabe has sort of apologized for being snarky. I'm glad this whole thing seems to be wrapping up well--they really just seemed to not know what they were getting into, and reacted poorly. Guess this also goes to show that there's no shortage of trolls ready to threaten physical harm to people based on an internet tempest.
posted by Tubalcain at 12:12 PM on February 3, 2011


4. Because it's relatively rare and the victims aren't of the metafilter demographic (predominantly poor, young, black and male), most people here don't have a personal experience with murder.
posted by electroboy

You'd be surprised at how wrong you are.
posted by Ann Onymous at 12:13 PM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think Gabe and Tycho's responses were probably about as much and as good as could be expected. I particularly applaud Tycho for pointing out that many of their critics were coming from a well-established intellectual tradition, albeit one largely foreign to Gabe, Tycho, and their readership.

For me, the most problematic part was this: "The only people who are pro-rape are rapists." That statement demonstrates that more than not merely "seeing eye to eye" with his critics, Tycho roundly rejects a fundamental premise of the criticism. So while he may "understand their intent" and have "received an incredible education during the ordeal and been exposed to an amazing range of thought," I don't think his personal position or thinking has been substantially altered. I find that unfortunate but not surprising.
posted by jedicus at 12:14 PM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


You'd be surprised at how wrong you are.

It's true, I would be surprised if most people on Metafilter had a personal experience with murder.
posted by electroboy at 12:18 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


How is a fictional cartoon character printed on a t-shirt - which never mentioned rape or any other threatening act - in any way comparable to an actual threat of violence against an actual woman and her actual child?

It isn't. But the actual threatening acts made toward people who protested the comic are pretty comparable!

Which he seemed to condone, albeit abstractly, by encouraging his fans to mock dissenters who claimed that his words/actions were harmful. Many of these dissenters, of course, being people who have had personal experiences dealing with rape and sexual violence.
posted by hermitosis at 12:20 PM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hrm. That's interesting. I'm not disputing it, electroboy, but I wonder – what is the "metafilter demographic"? I'd be intrigued to know.
posted by koeselitz at 12:21 PM on February 3, 2011


I was just adding my thoughts to the "rape is worse than murder" derail.

Just a point of clarification: I wasn't trying to say that rape is "worse" than murder; I was trying to say that it's a different beast, and it's not surprising that, given the incredibly intimate and dehumanizing nature of rape, that people might react to it more vehemently than murder.

I don't think a X is worse than Y really can be made there, and trying to do so is just icky and weird for a million different reasons.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:24 PM on February 3, 2011


While I'm glad that Tycho finally spoke, and he finally spoke out to encourage troll to knock shit off, and that Mike finally said the same thing... he really seemed to miss the point. A lot. Some of what he said came off as pretty bizarre, like "Look! I have a daughter! I can't be a bad person!" and they didn't seem to really own thier shirt w/r/t what they kicked off, got started, or made worse.

It's horrible to get death threats just for speaking about an issue. I know cause I've gotten several a week since my article went up. And kirbybits has been harassed with death threats for much longer, every day since she spoke out.

This didn't appear in a vaccuum.
posted by ShawnStruck at 12:29 PM on February 3, 2011 [11 favorites]


...they didn't seem to really own thier shirt w/r/t what they kicked off, got started, or made worse.

Yeah. The thing there is that it wasn't really about rapists. It was about "Fuck You you criticizers!"

I honestly don't think that anyone (OK, most people) were thinking "Team Rape!" They were more likely thinking "Team Fuck Those People Who Criticised Our Fave Web Comic!"

The fact that the latter was essentially in the camp of the former is a exercise for the reader.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:36 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the repost, XQUZYPHYR. I'm tempted to read an unspoken refusal to stand behind Mike's antagonism into his exclusive focus on the original comic, but other comments about their mastery of interpersonal communication suggest that no, a face-value reading is probably sufficient. Still not interested in what they have to say, since, to no one's shock, there's still nothing new here.
posted by jinjo at 12:44 PM on February 3, 2011


When it gets to the point of threats, it's off the chain. Regardless of which side you're on.

Agree 100%, ChurchHatesTucker.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 12:46 PM on February 3, 2011


Yes. My point exactly.

When it gets to the point of threats, it's off the chain. Regardless of which side you're on.


Your first line ("my point exactly") sounds as though you're agreeing with me. Then you go on to say something that isn't what I'm saying.

In the eyes of many other people, or at least in my own eyes, things were "off the chain" the moment dickwolf paraphernalia was put up for sale, then got further off the chain when PA encouraged readers to wear them at PAX. Threats and real life intrusions had been made towards the critics of PA long before this particular incident. I really like the way Hermitosis put it:

I'm sad that it had to literally get turned back around onto him before he realized how other people must have been feeling about these issues.

I just wanted to make sure I was clear, as I'd hate for you to inadvertently endorse a perspective you didn't actually share.
posted by jsturgill at 12:47 PM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Your first line ("my point exactly") sounds as though you're agreeing with me. Then you go on to say something that isn't what I'm saying.

OK. What is that?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:51 PM on February 3, 2011


This almost reads like an endorsement of death threats to me.

That's a ridiculous conclusion. Not putting words into his mouth but I'm interpreting jsturgill's as more of an observation that once again the only dent this incident seems to have made in Krahulik's psyche was when he felt the victim, just as when he first removed the shirt complaining how a "vocal minority" was picking on him and how suggesting that rape culture exists was something to derisively mock. And either way that's definitely my personal observation of it.

It's horrific and inexcusable that anyone was made the target of physical threats. But even if it's "not as bad" if you really are desperate to quantify it, I consider mocking traumatized rape victims, including telling them that their condition doesn't exist because my wife says I'm funny, to fall in that category because by default it encourages that line of harassment. And I'm not going to pretend that at least a portion of his post doesn't have a "shocked, SHOCKED to discover gambling is going on here" vibe. He and Scott Kurtz spent the last two days bullying people and is upset that people are being bullied? Really? He's spent the last four months writing the goddamn manual on how easy it is to pick weaker targets.

I'm not looking to be outraged here. I'm saddened, like ShawnStruck said the other day, that I will find it impossible to look at something I loved the same way again. I'm glad that they responded, and I'm glad that at least in part they're aware of why this is happening. I just wish I could feel they're actually remorseful about what they did as opposed to unhappy about what's happening to them.

I need a better grasp on what they think they're apologizing for before I can muster up forgiveness.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:52 PM on February 3, 2011 [11 favorites]


For me, the most problematic part was this: "The only people who are pro-rape are rapists." That statement demonstrates that more than not merely "seeing eye to eye" with his critics, Tycho roundly rejects a fundamental premise of the criticism.

As mentioned previously, this likely has very little to do with the concept of rape in particular and is more tied to their moral code. Many people believe that actions should be judged on intent, not outcome. That is no more an objective failing than any other prevalent set of morals.

Some people hold that taking offense to something not meant to be offensive is a failing on the part of the recipient, while others believe that the recipient has overriding perspective. And since both of those poles harbor both positive outcomes and indefensible extremes, the only "right" answer is that there is no single arbiter of offense and its implications.

This argument has been so long and muddled, likely, precisely because two discussions were being had at once without any great deal of distinction.
posted by Phyltre at 12:53 PM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


The other side (that’s me, but not just me) believes that when it comes to expression nothing is off the table. It is the creator’s prerogative to create something - even something grotesque - out of anything they can find.

The thing is that I agree with Tycho about the creator's prerogative but I disagree that this is "the other side". It is possible to manifest expression without limitation while simultaneously maintaining a level of respect for the "grotesqueries" with which one works. Put another way, while the original Shakesville post decries rape jokes fairly universally, it doesn't at any point say people can't or even shouldn't make those jokes, just that the author doesn't like it when people do make those jokes.

So I don't think rape or murder or other horrors are off-limits to humorists and creators. But it behooves creators to be mindful of the power and resonance of the elements with which they work. Gabe and Tycho use things like rape and murder in their art precisely because they are potent and loaded images; if you're going to work with explosives but without sufficient respect for their danger, you should be not astonished when they go off in your face.
posted by Errant at 12:54 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would be surprised if most people on Metafilter had a personal experience with murder

I don't understand the argument. Do people on Metafilter joke about murder? Or tell the people they disagree with that they are going to come to their house and murder them? Or say, "oh, wah, wah get over it" if someone talks about the murder of someone they knew or loved? Do people on Metafilter get testy and/or defensive when other people say that murder isn't funny? Do people on Metafilter view murder as something that only fringe radical activists get worked up about?

In terms of personal experience, I'm not sure if you're trying to make a joke or what. You haven't been murdered so you don't have a personal experience with it? That kind of joke? Otherwise, people may very well have more experience than you realize. Me: family member murdered? Yes. (not immediate family); known people who were murdered? Yes. Known a murderer? Yes. Someone murdered on your doorstep*? Yes.; Been murdered? Not so far.

I consider myself having a very distant but still personal experience with murder.

* Twice, actually; different doorsteps. Also, all these incidents are unrelated to each other. So the family member murdered, knowing people who have been murdered, and knowing a murderer, and someone murdered in front of my house, etc. — none of them connected. The murderer I knew didn't kill the family member or the other people I knew who had been murdered, and didn't kill the people killed in front of my house, though he did live on the same street. Weird, I know, but true.
posted by taz at 12:55 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, wow, I was going to say -- last night I was reading twitter searches related to the whole debacle, and that ghostpain person needs to be charged with something. Not liking someone is one thing, but that ghostpostin person is pretty fuckin' deranged. the tweet-death threat towards his wife and child.

I'd like to hope they would have responded without that unhinged person, but take what you can get.

I don't know what to say about the fact that he contained his apology with "I'm sorry if I was a jerk[...]" I'm sure I could be reading too much into it -- but -- if? Really? If?
posted by cavalier at 12:57 PM on February 3, 2011


Oh, weird. That ghostpostin person takes mefi-centric shits on twitter now and then as well.
posted by cortex at 1:00 PM on February 3, 2011


From Tycho's response: The other side (that’s me, but not just me) believes that when it comes to expression nothing is off the table. It is the creator’s prerogative to create something - even something grotesque - out of anything they can find.

Overall a thoughtful and measured piece, but I do wish he had explicitly acknowledged what comes with that creator's prerogative: they are not immune from critique, criticism, or flat-out "your art sucks" from their audience. They are happy to reap the rewards of an engaged audience (the attention, the respect, the money, the community), but to pretend that they should not have to deal with the downside is naive and unrealistic.
posted by rtha at 1:02 PM on February 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's about dominating and destroying (yeah, I'm ok with that terminology) someone on the most intimate level imaginable.

I'm perfectly comfortable with the analysis that an urge and willingness to destroy is in a rapist's heart. There's obviously a desire to hurt, and hurt deeply, another person. I take issue with destroyed, the past-tense description of another human being's life.

Rape's closest cousin, I suppose, in the family of human-on-human violence is probably murder

I find this statement exceptionally surprising. It's closest cousin is torture. The only reason I wouldn't call them cousins is that I think rape is really a sub-category of torture, not a tangential relation.

The PA guys deserve credit for rising to the occasion.

I think it's more a matter of ceasing to dig than any sort of rise.
posted by phearlez at 1:02 PM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


I consider myself having a very distant but still personal experience with murder.

Given that you are not most of metafilter, your personal experience doesn't disprove my statement. I was responding specifically to this comment.
posted by electroboy at 1:03 PM on February 3, 2011


r/ghostpain/ghostpostin . I'm sure it thinks it is gleefully ironic, but that tweet history... phew.
posted by cavalier at 1:03 PM on February 3, 2011


ChurchHatesTucker, I'd love to hash out what I meant and I thought you thought I meant. I sent you a message to that respect, so check your memail.
posted by jsturgill at 1:06 PM on February 3, 2011


Sure woulda been nice if, as part of the "let's drop it" effort, either PA dude had made an overt request or demand that people not bring dickwolf materials to PAX-E.
posted by phearlez at 1:15 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ghostpostin is the alter ego of former MeFite Optimus Chyme
posted by orville sash at 1:18 PM on February 3, 2011


What.
posted by boo_radley at 1:20 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


jedicus: "For me, the most problematic part was this: "The only people who are pro-rape are rapists." That statement demonstrates that more than not merely "seeing eye to eye" with his critics, Tycho roundly rejects a fundamental premise of the criticism. So while he may "understand their intent" and have "received an incredible education during the ordeal and been exposed to an amazing range of thought," I don't think his personal position or thinking has been substantially altered. I find that unfortunate but not surprising."

I find that stance to be quite wrongheaded. Your expectation of his "learning" how to understand the world from the subjective view of a die-hard feminist who espouses the world view of "rape culture" as the defacto and sole way to view the world is utterly wrong and shows why so many people who are anti-PA in this thread just don't get it. I think Jerry said one thing quite clearly in his statement.
"one side believes that not according the issue of rape the proper respect fuels a kind of perverse, perpetual engine called rape culture. There is a vast, specific lexicon and hundreds of tacit assumptions that gird it."

This right here is the crux of the whole fight. One side has this stance, and they are fighting from this is the ONLY stance to have regarding rape. Everyone else, whether explicitly pro-PA or just not on the side of the anti-PA crowd disagree and do not want to think of their world as being part of a "rape culture" or anything else to do with rape. By forcing them to acknowledge it or to explicitly view everything through this lens of reality, you are fundamentally disregarding the other persons right to view the world through their own subjective filters. YOU DO NOT HAVE THAT RIGHT. You also should not have any expectation for anyone to ever fold up their beliefs and worldview simply because yours is different.

I believe that many rape victims need more effective and progressive therapy and treatment and that many "rape survivor" and "rape victim" groups do nothing more than to insulate and alienate someone who is in pain and feeds upon the negative emotions they feel in a non-constructive way that does nothing to further the goal of healing a fractured psyche. But I feel that way about a lot of things. This does not mean I swallow the bitter pill of "rape culture" as a valid world view that accurately describes reality. Sadly, my description of reality goes much, much darker, but that's a whole different plate of beans to never be discussed.

This whole episode is an illustration of "internet train wreck". Yes, I know there is a special place in hell for me because I think these things are "good" to have happen, because you can't resolve anything without conflict.
posted by daq at 1:21 PM on February 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was actually wondering if that were possible.
posted by Errant at 1:21 PM on February 3, 2011


Your expectation of his "learning" how to understand the world from the subjective view of a die-hard feminist who espouses the world view of "rape culture" as the defacto and sole way to view the world is utterly wrong

I expected no such thing. You'll note that I specifically said that I found Tycho's reaction unsurprising. If I had expected him to change his mind then the fact that he didn't would have been surprising.

By forcing them to acknowledge it or to explicitly view everything through this lens of reality, you are fundamentally disregarding the other persons right to view the world through their own subjective filters.

I'm not forcing anyone to do anything. I haven't contacted the PA authors about this issue, and I have not condemned any particular people in this thread for their views. I have, however, given my own viewpoint and explained why I believe the views of the PA authors are harmful.

You also should not have any expectation for anyone to ever fold up their beliefs and worldview simply because yours is different.

I don't expect anyone to change their beliefs simply because they are not the same as mine. I do, however, hope (NB: not expect) that people will change their beliefs when they see that their beliefs are harmful to others.
posted by jedicus at 1:33 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thank you daq. I think you're absolutely right.

Rage is fun. Rage in the service of something or someone you passionately believe in is super-fun.

And sorry, to the person who said they get no satisfaction from raging at behaviour they loathe, either in the company of like-minded folks or against the other kind - I don't believe you.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:35 PM on February 3, 2011


I guessed right - the "death threat" on the Krahuliks actually isn't one. It's a reminder that jokes don't seem funny if you are, or are close to, their subject. It is in no way credible as a threat of real violence and I shake my head to imagine the thought process behind treating it as one. I wouldn't put anything past those lunatics at this point! Why, when I think of the statistics on radical feminist-motivated murder, it chills my very blood...
posted by jinjo at 1:37 PM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sebmojo, I think some of the people saying this isn't fun for them are people who were raped, so maybe you could back off from that a bit? Even if they weren't...could you pretend they were?
posted by neuromodulator at 1:37 PM on February 3, 2011


jinjo, I am eager to read how you feel that ghostpostin tweet was not, even indirectly a threat on his wife and child. Was it where it started with" This is a funny joke" ? If so, maybe we've got one of those looking glass situations...
posted by cavalier at 1:39 PM on February 3, 2011


jedicus, sorry, I'm not very clearheaded today (haven't been for a while, sadly). The you was I guess the anti-PA crowd, not you personally. Your comment was simply the triggering response. I guess my reading of your comment was that you expected Jerry to not change his mind _because_ he didn't learn anything like he says he did, because if he had learned something, he would automatically capitulate since he was wrong. Does that make sense?

I do have to commend Threeway Handshake on the like about "tact filters". That does also exacerbate a lot of this argument. Though the one thing I think that is missing is when nerds have to interact with "normal" people for prolonged periods, they can get a glitch where they insert extra meaning into peoples words, though that might be a sign of a system failure on an individual level, though a strangely common one.
posted by daq at 1:40 PM on February 3, 2011


And sorry, to the person who said they get no satisfaction from raging at behaviour they loathe, either in the company of like-minded folks or against the other kind - I don't believe you.

For the record, I haven't said anything at all in this thread, although everything the Penny Arcade guys have said has made me some combination of angry and sad. The rage I feel here (and, I would venture, many others feel here) isn't recreational. I generally save that for discussions of Star Trek: Enterprise.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:40 PM on February 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


orville sash: “Ghostpostin is the alter ego of former MeFite Optimus Chyme”

Cite? I guess it's not really fair to ask for linked backup of this statement, and I figure you're probably correct. I just was hoping to have some confirmation before I go and be sad. Ugh.
posted by koeselitz at 1:45 PM on February 3, 2011


"statistics on radical feminist-motivated murder"

Not a statistic, but more a high-profile murder attempt:
Valeria Solanas, aka I Shot Andy Warhol and the SCUM Manifesto.

Probably one of the most detrimental figures in the feminist movement, primarily for her radical stance on male genocide. Sadly, this is the stereotypical "evil feminist" that is embedded in our culture, so anytime an "angry feminist" says ANYTHING, they are clumped in with his kind of crazy.

At least, that's what I have seen in any argument between people familiar with feminism and people afraid of feminism.
posted by daq at 1:46 PM on February 3, 2011


I guess my reading of your comment was that you expected Jerry to not change his mind _because_ he didn't learn anything like he says he did, because if he had learned something, he would automatically capitulate since he was wrong. Does that make sense?

No, I think he learned a great deal, and I take him at face value for that. I've read the strip since 1999, gave money to them every month when they relied on reader donations, bought the signed collector's edition of their first book, and I've met Gabe and Tycho in person, where they signed my book for a second time. Based on my accumulated (albeit distant) experience with the PA authors, I have no reason to think Tycho was anything less than honest and frank in his post. And as I said I think the result was as good as could be expected (in the sense of being likely or foreseeable, not in the "rightfully due or requisite in the circumstances" sense).

My point was only to observe that I don't think his personal position has changed much if at all. I think it's understandable why I would regard that as unfortunate, whether one agrees with me or not.
posted by jedicus at 1:53 PM on February 3, 2011


koeselitz: " Cite? I guess it's not really fair to ask for linked backup of this statement, and I figure you're probably correct. I just was hoping to have some confirmation before I go and be sad. Ugh."

Unless I'm very mistaken, it's OC. His latest tweet is "hi metafilter".
posted by zarq at 1:53 PM on February 3, 2011


> I meant to say that it is a vivid description of rape. And those three words remain one of the most painfully vivid descriptions of rape I've read in a long time. I wish somebody would acknowledge this, but I guess I shouldn't venture to hope.

It's plain (and also from your other measured contributions yesterday) that it bothers you a good deal. It's commendable that you've remarked on how and why you felt offended by it rather than using your hurt feelings as a springboard for sweeping dogmatic pronouncements. Of course, what's painfully vivid varies wildly for different people, and much of the tension here is rooted in people's unwillingness to acknowledge and/or tolerate the existence of those variations.

I do think you are overlooking a genuine issue as regards vividness and cartoons. This particular (verbal) imagery is painfully vivid to you even in the context of a silly cartoon - OK. But you wave away other examples of things in cartoons that could be painfully vivid for others, saying that if cartoons actually reflected the dark aspects of reality on a regular basis they would just be morbid rather than funny. It strikes me that this is the entire premise of the Itchy and Scratchy cartoons on the Simpsons; they show standard devices of cartoon violence but simply acknowledge that the cat would get pulped or otherwise injured rather than being flattened into a pancake or compressed into the shape of a bowling pin.

A more serious example, though: cartoon characters getting electrocuted. This happens all the time, not least because it's easy to draw: you replace your cartoon character with a silly skeleton surrounded by a jagged outline and strobe between a black and white background several times, everybody laughs. It's such a simple visual gag, and one that communicates a warning about basic electrical safety, that it shows up even in cartoons aimed at very small children, whereas relatively few cartoon characters drown or burn in fires. Yet the sad fact is that quite a lot of people die from electrocution - hundreds every year - and it's an awful way to go for both the victim and any onlookers. For anyone who has seen such a thing I imagine all of children's TV is a potential bad memory trigger. If technology pans out and we have wireless power transmission as the norm in a decade or two, future generations will look back and wonder how society tolerated and even laughed at something so horrible and yet easily avoidable, just as we are amazed that the Victorians tolerated industrial accidents.

> Rape's closest cousin, I suppose, in the family of human-on-human violence is probably murder, but even then, rape is still sort of in its own class because the sexual aspect, because that sexual contact is something that's usually wonderful but has been perverted and used as a weapon, doesn't have an analogous scenario in murder.

I strongly disagree, but only about the lack of parallel rather than downplaying the severity of the crime; things can't be reduced to some objective measure of awfulness, but on a social level we end up making such approximations out of necessity.

The example of people being blown up is pretty abstract and impersonal by nature, but the sad fact is that many murders are committed by acquaintances or family members, just like acts of abuse. Physical violations are no less intimate than an unwelcome sexual intrusion, just in a different way. On a psychic level, an invasion of one's dwelling place is often more traumatic than a more objectively dangerous experience outside, and an assault by an intimate or family member is traumatic not just as a physical event but because one's judgment of character and/or normal social expectations are severely undermined - for all crimes, but especially violent ones. The same things which make rape and sexual assault awful and heinous are exponentially worse when someone is actually trying to kill you, at least as far as my own experience goes.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:59 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Probably one of the most detrimental figures in the feminist movement, primarily for her radical stance on male genocide.

Valerie Solanas was pretty clearly mentally ill. I think it does everyone a disservice to refer to her as anything but.
posted by electroboy at 2:06 PM on February 3, 2011


XQUZYPHYR: "Jerry Holkins (Tycho) has finally broken silence as well:
[...]
The only people who are pro-rape are rapists. The idea that you would have to specifically enunciate an idea like that is almost overwhelming. It’s self-evident."
While I'm glad he wasn't really involved with this brouhaha (I was under the impression it was both of them doing the trolling), I'm surprised someone as articulate and well-read as he is doesn't understand that they were being accused of trivializing rape, not promoting or defending it. The latter criticism applied more to the shirts than the comic, but he never addressed that issue.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:09 PM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


While I'm glad he wasn't really involved with this brouhaha (I was under the impression it was both of them doing the trolling), I'm surprised someone as articulate and well-read as he is doesn't understand that they were being accused of trivializing rape, not promoting or defending it.

"Someone who defends rape jokes, which are the the primary means by which rape is normalized and its gravity diminished to make rape acceptable ... is indeed a rape apologist."
posted by kafziel at 2:17 PM on February 3, 2011


anigbrowl: “I do think you are overlooking a genuine issue as regards vividness and cartoons. This particular (verbal) imagery is painfully vivid to you even in the context of a silly cartoon - OK. But you wave away other examples of things in cartoons that could be painfully vivid for others, saying that if cartoons actually reflected the dark aspects of reality on a regular basis they would just be morbid rather than funny. It strikes me that this is the entire premise of the Itchy and Scratchy cartoons on the Simpsons; they show standard devices of cartoon violence but simply acknowledge that the cat would get pulped or otherwise injured rather than being flattened into a pancake or compressed into the shape of a bowling pin.”

I'm not really overlooking it; I've actually written a few comments about this, but deleted or edited all of them.

I actually feel as though you're right; this might point to problems in larger society. I still stand by my point. And I know it's deeply unpopular to argue that maybe society at large should tone down the violence a bit; but that may be a good idea. I'm willing to countenance that possibility.
posted by koeselitz at 2:18 PM on February 3, 2011


For me, the most problematic part was this: 'The only people who are pro-rape are rapists.'

I was completely shocked when I came to that statement. Not because of what it says, but because based on that and the other things he said, it appears to me that he actually doesn't understand the concept of rape culture. jedicus, you said that this shows he "rejects a fundamental premise of the criticism" - but it appears to me that it's that he doesn't understand it. It's preceded by:
...when mail started to come in to the effect that we were perpetuating a fundamental social conspiracy to rape, we couldn’t believe what we were reading. That is the entire point of the second strip...
"fundamental social conspiracy to rape" - that is his term for rape culture, right? And he's talking about this second strip, right? And saying that it is a response to a criticism that the original strip is an example of rape culture.

If he actually thinks that the second strip would be a response to such a criticism, his understanding of what rape culture is, is at odds with my own. The second strip talks about someone who "read our cartoon, and became a rapist as a direct result."

In my understanding, someone who was influenced by rape culture would not necessarily become a rapist, nor even necessarily have a greater disposition towards becoming a rapist.

...okay, I started writing out what I think rape culture is but it got too complicated. Basically, it appears to me that Tycho thinks that rape culture is a set of consciously-held ideas and maybe a sort of old boy network, where in my understanding it's a meme or set of related memes - memes in the original Dawkins sense as opposed to in the "internet meme" sense. The Wikipedia definition linked to at the beginning of the thread surprised me when I looked at it yesterday because it actually appeared to me to be incorrect or incomplete, in fact I thought it was a bad idea to link to it because it seemed to me that someone reading it would never understand why anyone would say that the original comic was part of rape culture.

However, I've never actually read any feminist writings defining rape culture (or much feminist writing at all, really), rather I have picked up the meaning entirely by seeing people use the term on MeFi and extrapolating the context. So maybe it's actually me who has the wrong definition, I guess, so I'm off to find some feminist writings where it's defined. (It's occurring to me, though, could some of the problems in this whole mess have been caused by a crappy Wikipedia article?)
posted by XMLicious at 2:18 PM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


electroboy: I completely agree that she was mental, but the association between her, the SCUM Manifesto, feminism, and anything related to the topic are something to consider, especially when you start getting into the territory of the Men's Rights Acticism being involved (which I can guarantee you, many of the people who were attacking the rape survivors and doing any kind of harassment were most likely associated with this vile troll cave of doom).
posted by daq at 2:21 PM on February 3, 2011


Just out of curiosity, was anyone's mind changed or opinion reversed on this topic after reading the 800 or so comments here?

Mine was, and profoundly so. I made two comments about it after making a 'lol dickwolves' comment. Read more slowly.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:22 PM on February 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm surprised someone as articulate and well-read as he is doesn't understand that they were being accused of trivializing rape, not promoting or defending it. The latter criticism applied more to the shirts than the comic, but he never addressed that issue.

Yes, weird. First there was the trivializing (if one sees it that way), then smirking and scoffing, then becoming hostile and aggressive and then marketing that aggression via T-shirts identifying as one of a team of us-against-them fictional/impossible rapists in a sporting sense. So, kind of a buffet of items that aren't necessarily pro-rape in the sense of "go out and rape."
posted by taz at 2:28 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just out of curiosity, was anyone's mind changed or opinion reversed on this topic after reading the 800 or so comments here?

An important part of my criticism of the original strip was that it imported sexual violence into a game that sexual violence was not an inherent part of. As it turns out, that's not accurate. As a result, my criticism of the original strip was somewhat diminished.

But there are other criticisms of the original strip, and there is still criticism of the follow-up strip and the way the PA authors handled the fallout. So it depends on what you mean by 'mind changed or opinion reversed,' I guess.
posted by jedicus at 2:28 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I just think including her as an example of any sort of feminist is a mistake. It creates a strawman for anti-feminists, and isn't representative of actual feminist thought. Reminds me of the rush to figure out whether Loughner was a left winger or a right winger after the Gabriel Giffords shooting. They're neither. They're severely disturbed individuals that have latched on to a political philosophy as part of their illness.
posted by electroboy at 2:30 PM on February 3, 2011


XMLicious: Actually, the wikipedia article is pretty spot on as far as the accepted neutral definition of "rape culture." I think the problem is that a lot of references to it here and on many feminist discussions online tend to include many more loaded assuptions when using the term. Most people who feel comfortable using the established, feminist definition of "rape culture" also hold mane more things to be true. It's also a dog whistle. For some people, when they read that phrase, it triggers a cascading definition that encompasses an enormous worldview. For every one else it means "culture of rapists". Hence my initial argument against everyone deciding that "rape culture" was a well understood phrase. Anyway.
posted by daq at 2:30 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Someone who defends rape jokes, which are the the primary means by which rape is normalized and its gravity diminished to make rape acceptable ... is indeed a rape apologist."

Incidentally, Shakesville was the blog with the bit about murder and a dark sense of humor:
When I have a sense of humor, it is a little offbeat. I have liked, for example, Penny Arcade's comics about the numerous times they've killed each other. I have a dark sense of humor, and I'll admit it.
posted by electroboy at 2:33 PM on February 3, 2011


Sebmojo, I think some of the people saying this isn't fun for them are people who were raped, so maybe you could back off from that a bit? Even if they weren't...could you pretend they were?

Ok, how about addictive, then?
posted by Sebmojo at 2:35 PM on February 3, 2011


cavalier, fair enough. Obviously it's subjective, but while it did seem deliberately disturbing, the tidy parallelism of over-the-top violence and 'murderwolves' made it read to me like a 'gotcha' on the on the original comic by a classic Internet-graduate-with-honors. For further guidance on how worried to be about such things, all you can do is look at the context. The snark in my comment was on this point, since there simply isn't, to my knowledge, any real-world trend or incident or evidence of any kind that would support the fear that someone was actually going to go and murder two unrelated known innocents over someone else not being feminist enough on the internet. Lord knows there have been plenty of opportunities for that, if anyone was going to do it, but it doesn't seem like a thing that happens.

So yeah, Mike spends quite a bit of time and energy laughing at the foolish pigs who build their house of bricks, only to turn around later crying to be let in because the First Amendment-hating barbarians are at the gates. I have I confess I am basically overcome with eyerolling at this, so it's probably a good thing I'm not on whatever police force would have been responsible for handling it, if it had been taken seriously enough to be reported, and there is no suggestion that anyone did that.
posted by jinjo at 2:35 PM on February 3, 2011


I was completely shocked when I came to that statement. Not because of what it says, but because based on that and the other things he said, it appears to me that he actually doesn't understand the concept of rape culture.

Why are you shocked? Most people don't know what it means.
posted by empath at 2:38 PM on February 3, 2011


empath: Why are you shocked? Most people don't know what it means.

Which is why the first criticism didn't use the phrase, and then both the concept and the criticism was explained, at length:
No, one rape joke does not "cause" someone to go out and commit a rape. But a single rape joke does not exist in a void. It exists in a culture rife with jokes that treat as a punchline a heinous, terrifying crime that leaves most of its survivors forever changed in some material way....

That is the environment into which a rape joke is unleashed—and one cannot argue "it isn't my rape joke that facilitates rape" any more than a single raindrop in an ocean could claim never to have drowned anyone.
It's an astonishing disconnect that a population that's quick on the trigger to indict Beck, Palin, and McCain for fostering political violence can't understand the notion that many people feel the same way about rape jokes.
If Tycho and Gabe want to make rape jokes, that's their prerogative. I'm not calling for a repeal of the First Amendment or asking their strip to be censored; to be perfectly frank, I would love nothing more than for them to continue their comic with a newfound appreciation for why rape jokes fucking suck, and thus not use (or defend) them anymore by their own choice.

But, failing that, I'd like to see them at least be honest enough to admit that their critics are not accusing them of "creating" rapists or "causing" rape—and have the courage not to hide behind mendacious misrepresentations of why people object to their continued use of rape jokes, and the honesty to admit they just don't give a fuck about survivors.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:54 PM on February 3, 2011 [11 favorites]


daq: “It's also a dog whistle. For some people, when they read that phrase, it triggers a cascading definition that encompasses an enormous worldview. For every one else it means ‘culture of rapists’.”

This is very true. But please note further that the latter meaning – 'culture of rapists' – and the immediate implication that people who perpetuates rape culture are themselves rapists – do not flow immediately from the semantic nature of the phrase. "Rape culture" doesn't in and of itself say "a culture of people who are all rapists" any more than it in and of itself says "a culture of people who legitimize rape."

I say this because I want to focus on the reason people tend to jump to the conclusion that "rape culture" means "a culture of rapists." The reason is: people tend to personalize, and to feel attacked, when serious terms like "rape" are thrown around. Rape is a scary thing, and we're all aware that it's a serious moral issue. Ironically, people take the charge of 'perpetuating rape culture' out of context and freak out a bit for the very same reason that the charge is made in the first place: because rape is a big, scary, serious thing, and we all know it on some level.

What's needed is: people need to stop in their tracks and examine carefully the objections that have been made. When someone says to me: "hey, you're perpetuating rape culture!" my first reaction is probably going to be one of annoyance, and I'll probably be a little put out: "are they saying I'm some kind of rape-lover? How dare they! That's ridiculous." But the point is that I have to get over that initial annoyance and actually take a look at the things I've done and said. That kind of detachment isn't easy, but it's necessary to move forward.
posted by koeselitz at 2:54 PM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's an astonishing disconnect that a population that's quick on the trigger to indict Beck, Palin, and McCain for fostering political violence can't understand the notion that many people feel the same way about rape jokes.

I agree. But I think you're applying a voice to the "population" which is the loudest in each thread. And defining the Metafilter population that way would be erroneous, I think.

(This is coming from someone who last commented about 1000 comments ago in this thread and had the meaning of my comment completely misconstrued, if the responses to it were any indication)


I really can't believe how hard it is for some people who seem like really good guys to think "Gee, I might have offended some people. I should just apologize and shut the fuck up." There are some hills worth dying on, and not-pro-rape-but-going-to-joke-about-rape-no-matter-what-you-say doesn't really seem like a worthy one. But yet here we are.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:08 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I really can't believe how hard it is for some people who seem like really good guys to think "Gee, I might have offended some people. I should just apologize and shut the fuck up." There are some hills worth dying on, and not-pro-rape-but-going-to-joke-about-rape-no-matter-what-you-say doesn't really seem like a worthy one. But yet here we are.

At the risk of pointing out the obvious: they think they're right. Agree or disagree with them, they believe that they ought to unapologetically depict horrible, offensive things in the interest of making a joke, as long as they are not consciously promoting those things. Since they think they're right - just as you think you're right - they're not going to straight-up apologize for doing what they think is an A-OK thing. You might as well wonder aloud, "I don't get it, why don't they just agree with me?"

Part of why this is an over 9000-comment thread is because this kerfuffle is a snakepit of several intractable issues.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:16 PM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


While I'm glad he wasn't really involved with this brouhaha (I was under the impression it was both of them doing the trolling), I'm surprised someone as articulate and well-read as he is doesn't understand that they were being accused of trivializing rape, not promoting or defending it.

I think that goes to their confusion over the term "rape culture" and their subsequent reactions to it, as well as to the sort-of-apology followup comic. It's been fairly clear from the beginning that they don't understand the criticism levied at them and are reading it as "you said rape, you support rape", which is so obviously ridiculous that one can understand their confusion that anyone would take such an accusation seriously. Except, as you rightly point out, that's not the accusation, and so their critics are saying one thing and they're responding to something else. Add in a propensity for snark and vitriol on both sides and you have the recipe for an internet explosion.
posted by Errant at 3:28 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since they think they're right - just as you think you're right - they're not going to straight-up apologize for doing what they think is an A-OK thing. You might as well wonder aloud, "I don't get it, why don't they just agree with me?"

Yes, but that presents this as a dichotomy that doesn't exist. There's a lot of ground between a complete and sincere apology and going on the attack. Which I don't know that you'd disagree, but when MCMikeNamara uses the term "hill to die on" that implies, to me, doing more than simply stating that you're going to agree to disagree. It connotes really pushing your case, much less the ramping up the abuse and shitty behavior we saw here.
posted by phearlez at 3:30 PM on February 3, 2011


daq: Oh. Huh. I wish I'd seen your comment before. If the real meaning of it is really either something like "culture of rapists" or a "culture where rape is prominent", then I actually think that applying it to this situation is kind of bad even, because neither of those things appear to me to describe very well the existing or potential problems here.

empath: I was shocked because I thought Tycho did not understand what he was being criticized for and has been responding to something completely different. But I'm feeling now like maybe I don't even understand what the original criticisms were and perhaps I've been using the term "rape culture" incorrectly myself.

So, if hypothetically you had a group of people who did not take rape very seriously, but neither talked about it or mentioned it very much, and weren't rapists themselves... that group's failure to take rape seriously wouldn't be related to, or wouldn't be an aspect of, rape culture at all? Because they are neither part of a culture of rapists, nor of a culture where rape is prominent, and they aren't displaying any of the behaviors described in the Wikipedia article?

I'm confused... I had taken the "culture" part of "rape culture" to almost be a misnomer, and was thinking that it meant something along the lines of "the set of all cultural artifacts and behaviors that might be directly or indirectly conducive of rape", not really even what you'd normally think of as a culture or subculture.

Ugh, I feel like I'm just hitting dead ends here, I'm just going to post this and go find some stuff to read.
posted by XMLicious at 3:31 PM on February 3, 2011


Errant: Plus, further adding to the confusion and drama is that once a conversation reaches this size you actually do have people saying, "You support rape" and "You deserve to be raped," which doesn't help matters.

XMLicious: No group is an island is the thing.
posted by ODiV at 3:34 PM on February 3, 2011


Which I don't know that you'd disagree, but when MCMikeNamara uses the term "hill to die on" that implies, to me, doing more than simply stating that you're going to agree to disagree. It connotes really pushing your case, much less the ramping up the abuse and shitty behavior we saw here.

I don't disagree. But: if you put yourself in the PA brigade's shoes, and you then therefore perceived the comments as implying that they were "pro-rape," then I can see how that would go beyond an "agree to disagree" stance. I'm not saying that PA were right to misunderstand the criticism, and I'm not saying they didn't turn out to be a bunch of dicks about it, but it's not mysterious to me why they were so piqued in the first place.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:35 PM on February 3, 2011


Interesting article from Joystick Division that talks with some of the industry panelists that decided ot withdraw from PAX due to the Dickwolves controversy, even post-withdrawal of the Dickwolves merchandise from the store.

An excerpt:
"When Mike tweeted that he planned on wearing his Dickwolves t-shirt to PAX, I was done," Corvus said. "I was now officially angry. Members of the gaming industry had reached out quietly and respectfully to the PA crew. But instead of trying to understand the issue so many people were having with their actions, they continue to mock the very notion that the concept of rape should be taken seriously."

Unfortunately, the "Dickwolf Debacle" has cost PAX several potentially interesting panels and sessions. Corvus himself was intending to present a panel with the International Game Developers Association at PAX East entitled "One of Us," featuring "members of the gaming community who are underrepresented and often subject to verbal abuse because of it. The panelists will share the coping strategies they've developed and tactics they've used to deal with the effects of being part of a larger gaming community that can be hostile."

Other people who have decided not to attend PAX includes developers Deirdra Kai and Courtney "Kirbybits" Stanton. Writer Arthur Gies of Rebel FM has also decided to abstain from the convention.
posted by ShawnStruck at 3:36 PM on February 3, 2011 [12 favorites]


So, if hypothetically you had a group of people who did not take rape very seriously, but neither talked about it or mentioned it very much, and weren't rapists themselves... that group's failure to take rape seriously wouldn't be related to, or wouldn't be an aspect of, rape culture at all?

Their lack of seriousness regarding rape would, I think, be construed as both a product of rape culture and a contributor, if passive, to it. The product of rape culture is a culture in which the act of rape is treated as not relevant or immediately threatening or abstract and fairly harmless, viz: calling things rape that aren't rape, such as "I thought that guy was a noob, but he raped me up and down the server." It is also a culture in which victims of rape are marginalized, belittled, harassed, and made to feel like they are the ones at fault for bringing charges or oversensitive and weak for being serious about the issue.

Most proponents of the idea would say that rape jokes are therefore contributors to rape culture, not because the person making the joke thinks rape is ok, but because the joke itself contributes to an overall schema whereby real rape is not treated with the seriousness it deserves. Shakesville's first post lays that argument out pretty concisely, I think.

Errant: Plus, further adding to the confusion and drama is that once a conversation reaches this size you actually do have people saying, "You support rape" and "You deserve to be raped," which doesn't help matters.

Yes, as the internet magnifies the intensity, the caricatures of the arguments morph into the actual arguments once some grar threshold has been reached, and that's about when the dialogue breaks down completely. Hopefully it can be rebuilt, because this is still worth talking about, even if Gabe and Tycho don't think so.
posted by Errant at 3:44 PM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the link, ShawnStruck. I'll bet that some end up taking these withdrawals as an attack on Penny Arcade, when it's really what they've asked for (that those who find their sense of humour offensive not subject themselves to it).
posted by ODiV at 3:47 PM on February 3, 2011


ShawnStruck: “Interesting article from Joystick Division...”

It's odd to note, in the context of the discussion here, that the author of that article talks about the Dickwolf being "a symbol for mocking rape culture." That is, he appears to construe "rape culture" as "the culture of people who have been raped."
posted by koeselitz at 3:56 PM on February 3, 2011


Perhaps the biggest disadvantage I see to more artists on the internet is that a surprising number of them appear to have remarkably thin skins in response to criticism.

The disadvantage of being a "big name" is that someone, somewhere, is writing bad things about you.

The advantage is that you have the privilege of not answering. In fact, if you think a particular critic is a unfair crank, trying to justify yourself is perhaps the worst thing you can do. Vincent Gallo certainly didn't come out on top in his flameout with Ebert, and not just because Ebert is the sharper wit. Defensive attacks on critics reek of petty justification and rationalization.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:57 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The withdrawls from PAX are completely understandable, but unfortunate. But after the some of the behavior of late, I can see why someone interested in talking about hostility in the gaming community would not want to bother.

Another consequence of this self-immolation on the part of the PA folks is reversing a lot of their own good work.
posted by Verdant at 3:59 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


The very concerned people asking "just what kind of genius do you need to be to understand this 'rape culture' thing anyway?" must really feel for the Insane Clown Posse's valiant struggle to understand how magnets work. I mean, after a certain point the average person just has to throw up his or her hands and admit that their tiny cranium can't wrap around such a complicated concept in any meaningful way. The only thing to do after that is stop trying, and announce your plans to wear your team rape t-shirt to the expo.
posted by jsturgill at 4:04 PM on February 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Perhaps the biggest disadvantage I see to more artists on the internet is that a surprising number of them appear to have remarkably thin skins in response to criticism.

It is interesting. When someone writes something bad about your work, is that going to be perceived as some stranger sending things out into the ether, or is it more like someone IMing you and telling you that you're being an ass? I think the instantaneousness of internet communication - it's as easy for me to email someone next door as it is to email someone in Shanghai - changes this dynamic quite a bit.

It's also interesting how a highly nuanced term like "rape culture," by dint of being thrown around on blogs where everyone else is more or less in agreement as to what it generally means, winds up getting read by people without that background. Any caution you make to try to specifically address criticisms to the PA people by not using your own jargon sort of goes out the window, to a certain extent, because they'll automatically see what others are writing about them in other corners of the internet and then be prone to misunderstand what is being said.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:06 PM on February 3, 2011


I'm sure that the reversal of the PA guys today has a lot more to do with the pulling out of respected presenters at PAX than it does about the general culture of GRAR that the whole thing started. What strikes me is that Tycho is very intelligent and obviously quite conversant with these issues now, and I caught a definite whiff of reproach towards Gabe in his response; the part about how he abdicated his voice in the response and what-not seems like a 'your response sucked, dude'.

So here's where giant threads like this and massive controversy over a comic strip and t-shirts do good. If, like several people have pointed out here, you get across to otherwise well-meaning but ultimately clueless and bravado-filled youngsters that certain words in certain combinations actually do make people hurt (or at the least REALLY PISS THEM OFF) and that there can be consequences to not just owning up to that and backing down when you inadvertently traipse over invisible lines in the sand-- it's a good thing. Really. It's not censorship or silencing voices or whatever, it's just not intentionally being a jerk.
posted by norm at 4:07 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, but that presents this as a dichotomy that doesn't exist. There's a lot of ground between a complete and sincere apology and going on the attack. Which I don't know that you'd disagree, but when MCMikeNamara uses the term "hill to die on" that implies, to me, doing more than simply stating that you're going to agree to disagree. It connotes really pushing your case, much less the ramping up the abuse and shitty behavior we saw here.

Exactly. Not realizing the whole depth of the thing, when I originally read the comic, I began this whole debacle completely on the side of the the PA dudes -- joke about what you want. But when people come to you and say "hey, this thing -- not okay" -- the non-dick thing to do is not to create a t-shirt about said issue (which was the point I tried to make with the parallel I made about 1000 comments ago -- where I wrote "reporter" instead of "supporter")

When I say I can't believe that people who seem like really good guys would do this, you should focus on the "who seem liked good guys" part. I realize that they think they are right. But there is some shit that I think comes before "being right" in the "what I believe good guys should do" -- and sensitivity to rape victims is one of them. For me, it isn't about me or them being right. It isn't about rape culture or how certain things are entirely too prevalent in the gaming community. For me, it's about people who seemed like good guys (who I would give the benefit of the doubt for the occasional misogynistic or homophobic comment) reacting in an entirely "not good guy" way.

posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:16 PM on February 3, 2011


jsturgill: I get your snark, but I think you also have to understand that there seems to be a whole lot of the Dunning-Kruger effect happening on several levels, within all camps.

Also, it's not an A or B equation. You could also do what many people have done and re-evaluate your own view and hopefully continue to grow as human being, instead of pigeonholing yourself into either "enlightened" or "stupid". Most people who feel they are enlightened, are, in fact, too stupid to realize they might be just as wrong as whatever they are railing against. At least that would be my probably wrong opinion, but I think more study is needed to be definitive on this.

Really, the best that can come from this is for more people to observe the human psychological motivations behind all the behaviors displayed in this. I really don't think enough is known about why someone would go so far as to make death threats. What is the (I guess, illogical) reasoning behind going that far? I find that interesting in and of itself, rather than dismissing the behavior as "oh, they are just dicks."

And yes, I do enjoy several 'For the LULZ" meme's on the internet, mostly because I don't think people understand enough behind their own motivations and having someone pick it apart can be helpful to highlight "bad" things in society. Like ignorance and righteousness.
posted by daq at 4:19 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's been fairly clear from the beginning that they don't understand the criticism levied at them and are reading it as "you said rape, you support rape", which is so obviously ridiculous that one can understand their confusion that anyone would take such an accusation seriously.

*blinks*

OK, what does it mean then? Because that's pretty much the definition I've gotten out of this discussion.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:30 PM on February 3, 2011


I'm not saying that PA were right to misunderstand the criticism, and I'm not saying they didn't turn out to be a bunch of dicks about it, but it's not mysterious to me why they were so piqued in the first place.

Nor to me. I sat in a room once about twenty years ago, the only man who'd come out to a seminar on sexual violence on campus. The speaker, while talking about the conditions women face and keeping themselves safe, said "every man is a potential rapist." Then looked at me and said "no offense."

In the moment I was really pissed. I didn't want a cookie because I'd showed up and no other dude had, but I thought it at least indicated I was someone who was concerned about the issue. But, okay, maybe she wonders if I'm a jackass who thinks this is where the chicks will be.

But to acknowledge me enough to speak directly to me but not to choose your words more carefully? It hurt and it made me angry. I thought "Would you think it was okay if I said every women is a potential prostitute?"

But even in the moment I knew there was enough else going on here in this subject that making a fuss was inappropriate. I can't know what's in PA's mind (to reduce them to a collective here) or when they saw what criticism - I'm prepared to cut them slack for the second comic; they might have seen some ill-chosen words and been hurt.

For me the bridge too far is when Mike showed up over at Shakesville and either read that thoughtful post or completely ignored it and then started filling poop. And then kept beating the dickwolf drum at a panel. And. And. And.

I get being worked up in the moment. But what that timeline shows is someone(s) going back to kick over the anthill multiple times over months.

I don't even begrudge their beliefs about the term rape culture or trigger warnings or whatever. You don't have to accept all lines of thought. You don't even have to make the effort to understand them - world's a big place, go where you want.

For me it's all about their continuing to pick the fight. Being offended, rightly or wrongly, is one thing. Having a hard time putting down the angry stick once it's in your hand, we've all been there. Repeatedly, deliberately, going out of your way to swing it? That's not about one belief, that's about a way of dealing with the world and the person you're choosing to be.
posted by phearlez at 4:32 PM on February 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Daq, I take seriously the question of how people can communicate well about emotionally charged issues. I actually have great sympathy towards the idea that progressives can be their own worst enemies, and that it's worthwhile to spend time thinking about how to productively engage with people who don't share your jargon or life experiences or expectations or culture or politics or whatever, in a way that is respectful and allows for growth and change from every participant.

I just happen to think that any impact ignorance about that specific term has had in this particular situation is minimal. It's not just a derail: it's an attempt to control the flow of the narrative and make it about how PA just didn't get what was going on because their hardcore feminist attackers didn't bother to think better about how to communicate their message to normal people. Which is typical of those ivory tower types, or the bra burner brigade, or whatever.

Like they said at the end of Clue, "[Rape Culture] was just a red herring." It's not the story here, and it's already been covered in depth inside this thread and out of it. I may have been overzealous in my posts about rape culture, but my heart is in the right place. I think.
posted by jsturgill at 4:37 PM on February 3, 2011


The original criticism was that by including a rape joke in the first comic under discussion, PA were unwittingly contributing to a culture in which rape is not taken seriously and is treated like a joke, and in which the victims of rape are marginalized, ignored, and left to suffer.

The criticism of the following comic is that by defining themselves as not "pro-rape" and by thinking that the original criticism was that by saying "rape" they were going to induce people to rape, they fundamentally misunderstood both the original criticism and were misrepresenting the theory of rape culture under which they were criticized; see above. Since no one had accused them of being "pro-rape" or of inducing rape, this attempt at an apology didn't feel like one and they had not addressed the actual criticism that others had made.

The criticism of the shirt and pennant is that they were mocking the notion of rape culture, a notion they had already demonstrated they didn't understand, and rape survivors by producing a sports team analogue in which one may side with either fictional rapists over their fictional victims or with snarky dismissals of a serious topic.

The criticism of everything that followed is that Gabe was being a real dick and Tycho/Khoo/et al were nowhere to be seen while Gabe was being a real dick, leading people to the impression that PA as a whole had no problem sticking the knife into rape victims, and that there's a real difference between satirizing power and incompetence and jokes that have as their butt sufferers of trauma.

I think that's a fair summation; I invite correction if I've misrepresented or misunderstood anything.
posted by Errant at 4:40 PM on February 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


OK, what does it [rape culture] mean then? Because that's pretty much the definition I've gotten out of this discussion.

I've always read it as being meant as enabling, not supporting, with the same nuance as one can be an enabler of an alcoholic or drug addict in widely different ways.
posted by phearlez at 4:43 PM on February 3, 2011


Nope, I think you pretty much got it!
posted by cavalier at 4:44 PM on February 3, 2011


So, a mention of rape within a joke is out of bounds, regardless whether the joke minimizes rape or not?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:45 PM on February 3, 2011


I think I'm closer to your position than, say, Pope Guilty's on this, ChurchHatesTucker, but really - that question has been pretty well beaten to death and well covered in the previous 900 comments. I don't think there's new understanding or agreement to map.
posted by phearlez at 4:48 PM on February 3, 2011


So, a mention of rape within a joke is out of bounds, regardless whether the joke minimizes rape or not?

The argument is that it is impossible for a rape joke to not minimize rape, given the current culture and climate of general marginalization. Even rape jokes that are not actively hostile towards rape victims are still harmful, because the action of that joke makes it possible for other, more overtly harmful rape jokes to exist without condemnation. I am not saying I agree with that argument, but that is the argument.
posted by Errant at 4:49 PM on February 3, 2011


So... yes?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:49 PM on February 3, 2011


It's been fairly clear from the beginning that they don't understand the criticism levied at them and are reading it as "you said rape, you support rape", which is so obviously ridiculous that one can understand their confusion that anyone would take such an accusation seriously.
*blinks*

OK, what does it mean then? Because that's pretty much the definition I've gotten out of this discussion.


Here's the Shakesville Rape Culture 101 article. Some people originally criticized the original strip as perpetuating rape culture [which is not the same thing as being pro-rape], because the use of rape as a hyperbolic terrible thing minimizes that it's actually a very common terrible thing.

Most of the criticism they're getting is about how they've responded to the original criticism, with a snarky second strip and a t-shirt that indicates they aren't taking the original criticism seriously. They easily could have dropped it at any point and it wouldn't have escalated this far.

There are no thought police. And in the United States [and many other parts of the world] there are no real speech police, either. People are allowed to say a lot of terrible things to whomever they like about whatever they like. But other people are free to criticize them and think of them as assholes for doing so.
posted by girih knot at 4:50 PM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


jsturgill: Yes, your heart is in the right place. However, controlling the flow of the narrative is actually one of the important pieces in this whole discussion, I think. The relevance of the initial "attacks" is important, since there needs to be a clear articulation of "what happened here." It frames the argument, and since there are subjectively right and wrong on both sides of the argument, the context of 'who shot first' starts to make more sense.

From Jerry's recent blog post, he states "We make disgusting, immoral comics on occasion to be sure; we’re used to correspondence in that vein. But when mail started to come in to the effect that we were perpetuating a fundamental social conspiracy to rape, we couldn’t believe what we were reading." (emphasis mine)
It might help if there was some clarification as to when those mails came in; before or after the second comic. From my reading of his statement, the mails and criticisms came in directly to them via e-mail or something _before_ Mike went on the site and made those rather bad decisions, but either way, the initial misunderstanding does not seem to have any linkable direct evidence. But, from that supposition, it seems that their reaction was much more understandable, in the "what are these people talking about? we don't support rape" response and everything from there is just escalation due to miscommunication. And that's really, really early in this whole thing.

Yes. once things escalated, it went completely nutso and it became a trainwreck very quickly. But it gained more and more steam the more people jumped in on BOTH sides, turning it very quickly into an INTERNET SHITSTORM. Can we at least agree on that and maybe learn from it?
posted by daq at 4:50 PM on February 3, 2011


phearlez: "For me it's all about their continuing to pick the fight. Being offended, rightly or wrongly, is one thing. Having a hard time putting down the angry stick once it's in your hand, we've all been there. Repeatedly, deliberately, going out of your way to swing it? That's not about one belief, that's about a way of dealing with the world and the person you're choosing to be"

Exactly.
Earlier in the year, they posted a comic that compared piracy and used game sales some people got offended.

The reaction was pretty big from fans and game developersso they solicited feedback and reposted it that same day..

Rape survivors saying they feel unsafe going to your convention when there are sales of dickwolves shirts were worth attacking, strawmanning, and mocking them for months, up to and including expanding the dickwolves merch to ladies' tees and pennants. So it's not like them responding to things in a careful, thoughtful manner the same day wasn't done before.

to quote @thefremen, "But when a dude bro says 'oh hey I buy used games all the time but my hat isn’t backwards like that guy in the comic!' then it’s worth sitting down and having a rational conversation instead of sticking to your guns and being a huge jerk?"

They don't seem like they've really absorbed much of the lesson. Wearing the shirts at PAX are still okay. And there has been no word as to wethereveryone who felt "conflicted" is still officially dis-invited from PAX.
posted by ShawnStruck at 4:52 PM on February 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


By the way, while I don't especially mind doing it, I'm basically just restating the original post from Shakesville, the first "offended" link in the FPP. It might be worthwhile to reread it.
posted by Errant at 4:54 PM on February 3, 2011


Even rape jokes that are not actively hostile towards rape victims are still harmful, because the action of that joke makes it possible for other, more overtly harmful rape jokes to exist without condemnation.

By that logic The Great Dictator is a fascist movie.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:11 PM on February 3, 2011


Well, no, because situations and logic are not transitive. There was not a culture of marginalizing the fascist threat and demanding that the victims of fascism prove that they didn't have it coming despite wearing that liberal outfit. And The Great Dictator ends with an unironic, fourth-wall-smashing monologue in which Chaplin unambiguously decries fascism and urges political and military action against it. The latter is what rape culture demands as antidote, that the issue of rape is treated seriously and directly, without irony and without marginalization as something less than it is.
posted by Errant at 5:17 PM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


By that logic The Great Dictator is a fascist movie.

No, but if every third TV show or action movie cynically used fascism as a cheap plot point and Jerry Brucker produced a jaw-droppingly exploitative "anti-fascist" CSI: Holocaust franchise wherein the camera lingered lovingly each week on the suffering and screams of the victim characters, then it wouldn't be shocking for people to think we have a culture that trivializes fascism and has an unhealthy fixation on images of it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:24 PM on February 3, 2011 [