I Support Dickwolves

I really don’t want to add more fuel to the fire of the Penny Arcade ‘Dickwolves’ drama, but I also really can’t — as is with any opinionated person — keep my mouth shut. But I will try and refrain from villifying the so called ‘other side’, or exonerating ‘my side’. Instead, I’m just going to play out some opinions and some food for thought. But let me throw something out that Jerry said, before I begin in case anyone gets confused.

“The only people who are pro-rape are rapists

Also if you have no idea what this is about, check out the nice and unbias timeline of the dickwolves debacle. (edit: Oh hey, I’m on the timeline!)

The Comic

This comic was probably one of favorites and is also what started this controversy. I think the comic is brilliant because, as many have said, it highlights the faux-morality that you see in gaming. Rape isn’t the joke. The line is somewhat comical in it’s absurdist nature, but the idea isn’t to dismiss rape, it’s to point out that this slave has it pretty god damn awfully bad. The prose of the slave’s plea is meant to be funny, it’s also meant to be horrifying. The fact the slave is dismissed so readily is a jab at MMOs (or really any in game quest). It’s an example of horrifying fridge logic. Taking the meaning of the comic as ‘pro-rape’ misses the point.

The whole reason the comic invokes rape isn’t to make light of rape, it is because rape is one of the worst acts a person could suffer.

I do think those who posted their initial displeasure about the comic were being silly. Well, besides those who were rape survivors, but they shouldn’t be reading Penny Arcade It is an unfortunate, horrible act that happened to them, but just like those who suffer any tragedy, one can not expect society to change for them. If that happened, we would have no free speech left. Not to say people should throw rape jokes around — Oprah shouldn’t since she knows her viewership. Penny-Arcade on the other hand, I think most people found that strip to be about what they expect. It fit within the established ‘bounds of good taste’ of the comic series. What’s offensive on Oprah and Toothpaste for Dinner are two entirely separate things.

Either way, those who took offense had the best interest of people at heart so I can’t fault them, but I just can’t see someone sensibly perceiving this strip as pro rape. This is an issue dear to many peoples hearts, but I think the best answer here was just to look elsewhere for your humor, as opposed to being offended by the guys you expect to be offensive. Now, the follow-up by Michael and Jerry wasn’t exactly classy, and the dickwolves shirt, while tongue-in-cheek, was perhaps in poor taste (That said, I want one), but I can’t say my response would be any different. But as figures in the public eye, they should have known better, as the response has been a little out of hand.

Rape Culture

This has been bothering me for quite awhile. This concept that comics like that help form a ‘rape culture’. This is an idea that appears somewhat regularly in feminism, but seems misled. This, despite our bias to assume things will only get worse, is perhaps one of the best times in history for women. They have the most access to power and wealth and safety then ever before. Now, obviously it doesn’t have to remain that way, so many are thusly worried about this idea of ‘rape culture’. They’re also not where they need to be yet in terms of equality, so it’s not time for them to put their guard down. Still, I want to put forth a thought, that has often been repeated and supported:

With the rise of violent and perverse media, we have become less violent.

Numbers seem to back this up, but ones perception might not because the news is really good at picking up on the worst possible stories. This wasn’t possible 50 years ago. Now this has less to do with the comic, and more to do with fan response, but I just want to say, the idea of ‘rape’ is a biological function of men. Evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense. Men want to spread their seed everywhere, since they don’t have to actually give birth, but women can only reproduce one baby at a time. This cases females in all species to be selective. Breeds of duck have rape designed corkscrew penises to get around female defenses, in some crazy reproductive organ arms race. We also want to kill other men and sleep with jailbait.

Or at least, Nature wants us to do this.

Well, sorta… In reality, we don’t want to do this. Some of us are actual rapists, murderers and child molesters, but some of us are also in jail and rightfully so. The rest of us? Our genetic social nature and culture has allowed us to suppress these urges, but not always remove them. We have evolved this way because cooperating raises survival more than being amoral rape monsters. This doesn’t curb all our aggression though. Men fight amongst each other still, but often now it’s Halo. Back 20 years ago, it was who could do the most dangerous trick on their rollerskates. At some point, it would be ‘who could kills the most people in battle’ and before that we just always punched the crap out of each other. We need to VENT, some people more than others and some people less sophisticatedly than others. Some people say lewd sexual things to poor ladies over the internet and harass them for trying to speak up. This is a confused, misguided venting behavior thats easy because, over the internet, you aren’t even a real human being. Does this make this behavior okay? No, these kids are dumb as hell. They’re not thinking or considering anything. Besides for some of the fringe elements trying to drag themselves into this argument, the stupid boys attacking people are just confused and venting. They should be ridiculed for being so foolish, but they shouldn’t be confused for endorsing a culture of rape. Despite how many of us can foolishly behave, the vast majority of us cling to society. This bit is anecdotal, but I’m not sure I know a man who wouldn’t be filled with rage upon catching a rapist, despite the tasteless jokes some of us might make.

I just want to put forth Japan as an example here. Japan’s rate of rape is extremely low. It might also be extremely under reported, but they would require 15 times more reported incidents to catch up to us. Needles to say, their rate of rape is much lower, whether or not the actual number given in any given year is accurate. Now, Japan has some of the worst, most immoral, terrible porn on the planet. I’m not even going to go into the details, as I think we all know them, but some of that porn is insane….. buuuut their rape rate is extremely low. The Japanese have better material in which to vent with. People ask if games like Rapelay went too far. Too far where? Went to far in relieving horrible internal emotions? We give into our gut fears that exposure will create a generation of monsters, where all the evidence points elsewhere. It’s easy to frame our fears to assume things that make us uncomfortable will only create more pain and suffering, but it’s contrary to evidence.

A silly comic that was probably one of the better comedic uses of rape has spawned a discussion that claims people are rape apologists or are creating a rape culture. That seem ridiculously far from the truth and I think everyone needs to take a breather. Again, no one is innocent. I don’t blame anyone who s worried about these things from worried. Many of them are women who’s position in society is something I can never truly understand without being one. Likewise, the impulses and psychology of men is not something they can entirely comprehend. Looking out for your own cultural wellbeing is natural. But everyone has to be more sensible(especially those who are running around threatening rape on each other jesus christ guys I know no ones serious but it’s just making the situation so much dumber).

So I dunno, just take a breather, folks. My self, I just had to vent a little bit too and I hope I did so respectfully.

Addendum: karlthepagen over at Twitter brought up that I said nothing on Rape Denial — the fact that women who are raped do not always realize or are willing to admit it happens. This mostly out of my realm. I can speak of the male psychology in the issues above, but speaking on a woman’s emotional state and ability to speak up on crimes against her body is something that at best I could only feebly theorize. I won’t, respectfully. I will throw one thing out there, though. It’s hard to define where rape begins. A stranger taking another stranger forcefully is clearly rape, but when a boyfriend “apes a girlfriend, things are less clear. Rape denial almost always occurs within the context of date rape, which can be really confusing. It can be hard for the male to realize he’s done something wrong, and hard for a woman to realize she has been violated. If neither realizes, is it rape? Taking advantage of a drunk girl who consents in a drunken stupor can be considered rape, but what if they’re both drunk? What if the girl initiates? Was the man raped? Were either only raped if they regret it? If its legally rape, but no one cares, is it still denial? The Aggressor can simply be a monster, but it’s often more complex than that.

I’m not siding with any stance on this. I only see it as a massively confusing and complex issue and can theorize abuse and uncertainty on either side. It doesn’t surprise me that a woman can come out of a situation unsure if she was been raped. Is this a social issue or a result of ‘rape culture’? Is it a result of ignorance and poor education? Are the definitions we use, even fair?

I have no fucking clue.

37 thoughts on “I Support Dickwolves

  1. It’s a misunderstanding of human sexuality to say that men are naturally inclined to rape, and that only society prevents us from doing it. Humans are inherently social and we worry an awful lot about how we appear to others; in the old days, social punishment could mean exile and starvation.

    Other than that, though, you’re right. If anything, the comic uses rape as an example of something very very bad. If that perpetuates rape culture, then I think feminism does too.

  2. I didn’t even know about this issue until just a few days ago, and I only started reading about it with the help of that breakdown you linked too. I am tentatively in disagreement you. Now, you know my stance but lemme preface for anyone else that might read this and desire to interject;

    I am 100%, in all cases excepting those of private property, against censorship of any kind whatsoever. If PennyArcade, or any other body, decides to privately (IE with no ‘real’ force involved) decides to cave to demands made by those that have taken issue with that, that is fine. If they don’t decide to cave, that is also fine. Basically, PennyArcade has the right to say whatever they want on their properties, and other people have the right to disagree. Just as long as their are no threats of violence involved, no harm no foul.

    Okay, on to my point.

    I think there is a general misunderstandment about ‘Rape Culture’ going on on ‘your’ side of the argument. Yes things are better, but that comes from society overall being less violent. In many other ways, though, no progress has been made whatsoever. Prison Rape, for example, is a HUGE joke. One can handwave and say ‘sure, I intellectually still know rape is wrong’, but whenever anyone mentions prison, going to prison, whatever, there is a damn good chance someone is going to make a rape joke. No surprise, there isn’t a strong movement to stop prison rape. That’s for multiple reasons (more like justifications, depending on if the person you are asking is a moron), but it also fair to say that societies making light of it is part of the problem.

    I have made (make) rape jokes sometimes too, and while I don’t want to be a hypocrite and say I’m a special little flower but I am a special little flower. I get to make rape jokes among friends that are also special little flowers. In public, though, it’s rather poor form. And when I see 13 year old using it out of context so incredibly frequently (along with gay and faggot) I cannot help but think that they have been affected by this in some way.

    In regards to PennyArcades joke in particular, it wasn’t as big a deal. Mostly this is because the joke in and of itself wasn’t really about rape. It was about quests and vidyagamey stuff. Bigger issues arise when rape IS the joke, without any other pretenses invoked. Like Looney Tunes and the villain blowing himself up, except he is raped instead.

    D: Wile E., noooooooo

    THAT is the bigger issue at hand. It’s just that since PennyArcade is such a big figure, I’m a little saddened that they didn’t handle it better. No need to retcon the comic or whatever, just an apology would of been nice.

    I fear I might of been a bit rambly. I’ll get into more specifics with your response, most likely.

  3. I concede this and will amend the post slightly. I think it’s fair to say we still have the evolutionary impulse of REPRODUCE AT ALL COSTS which is resisted by our social nature and is further reinforced by the culture we’ve developed

  4. Most of the uproar wasn’t so much about the initial strip as it was about Mike and Jerry’s reaction to people being triggered by it. Not just their being condescending and dismissive in their newsposts and on their Twitter accounts to those who took issue with it (causing their fans to back them up in far cruder and more inappropriate ways), but also making a T-shirt that allowed people to emblazon the front of their chests with “PENNY ARCADE DICKWOLVES”. This shirt effectively takes the ‘dickwolf’ concept out of context and making it into something anyone excited about the concept of lupine rapists can be proud to wear at PAX. They were right to take it down.

    And then there’s the fact that they’ve built themselves up to the point where many consider them the public face of the videogame community. Which is unfortunate, given these circumstances. I hope they do something to make up for it, because they’ve been doing a pretty good job of it up until now.

    I don’t believe in censorship either. This isn’t that. When someone does something like this, they should be prepared for this kind of community blowback. I hope their readership is significantly lower as a result, if only so they’ll know to handle their next controversy with more tact.

  5. I concede that they were unnecessarily crass, especially Mike. Again, I’d do the same thing, but I’m not the public face of video games. In fact, due to IWBTG, I doubt anyone would expect otherwise.

    Still, I think the the folks that are offended are extrapolating the issue into things it isn’t. Not that they shouldn’t be offended by their flippant attitude, but I think it’s important to remain grounded. Though it’s hard not to over some issues (LIKE RAPE), so I understand.

  6. Pingback: Tweets that mention I Support Dickwolves – Kayinworks -- Topsy.com

  7. MUST. REPRODUCE.

    On a more serious note. I thought the response to the original comic was completely stupid and hypocritical. The author (feminazi) states that she enjoys dark humor and even links to this comic [http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2008/3/3/] as one she found humorous.
    She then goes on to say that unlike the characters murdering each other, rape happens every day. The problem with this is that, people also die and/or are murdered everyday. She makes no clarification as to why death/murder is funny but rape is not, other than mentioning that the characters come back to life (basically ‘it’s a comic so it doesn’t count’). But the thing is, its still a joke involving murder, a serious real-world issue.

    The reason for both the jokes being humorous, however, is that they are an exaggeration. Like you mentioned in your post Kayin, it’s not the rape thats funny, it’s the hyperbole. The fact that the fictional character is threatening another with rape OR murder over some small incident is what makes it funny.

    inb4 a billion replies to Kayin’s post.

  8. I thought the same thing when I read her post. Because we all know no-one murders people! Even though she caused a lot of the drama here, I still can’t think too poorly of her. Running ones mouth off in a blog is sorta how things roll for us opinionated people. What gets me is that it somehow SNOWBALLED. I’d figure most reasonable people would realize she was being rather unreasonable in her position.

  9. Yeah, I suppose she can’t be held entirely responsible. I think that Penny Arcade’s handling of the situation does seem pretty poor though. That next comic could have been a lot better structured or left out entirely and a blog post written, explaining the form of humor etc…

  10. The guy who made me make an addition about rape denial brought up it’s possible that they were flippant because the response was initially pretty stupid and when people started bringing in real issues they CONTINUED being flippant, which made things explode.

  11. The awesome thing about this debacle is that it identifies people like you as complete assholes, who I would otherwise never know to avoid like the plague.

  12. That’s okay, I like being avoided by people who are needlessly unreasonable. =D

    Though if you decide not to be needlessly unreasonable, I will welcome a conversation about what part of my stance you find to be so offensive.

  13. Man, I know you’re unreasonable, Kayin. I’ve played your game!

    To seriousness: your argument seems fine, but I question one of the premises; specifically, that ‘venting’ decreases the likelihood of a stronger negative reaction. A crude analogy would be a person on a diet who is presented with cake. They could ‘vent’ by eating the cake, but we know that, most of the time, it breaks their diet. They’ve already crossed that line, and so when presented with cake again, they’re more likely to ‘vent’ again.

    Similarly, if your reaction to violent urges is to be violent, then ‘venting’ only strengthens the association between violent urges and acting violently. It’s short-term relief, yes, but that’s at the long-term cost of making violent responses more normal. (I have seen a study that suggests this is how it works, but it was only one study and my Google-fu is lacking today.)

    Now, the big difference is that what’s holding the dieter back from nomming on any cake they see is their willpower, but for violent acts there’s a whole bunch of other factors: societal disapproval, empathy and the justice system. The argument about rape culture, essentially, is that the societal disapproval of rape is not particularly strong. People generally don’t accept that if someone walks around at night they’re going to get knifed, but they do accept that if a woman walks around at night she’s probably going to be raped. Of course, if you say ‘people accept rape’ they’ll dismiss you out of hand, which is why they invent a term like ‘rape culture’.

  14. Thanks for commenting Merus. Anyways if you look at the numbers for countries that allow for crazy violent and hyper sexual media, sex crimes go down. The problem with the dieting example is that it doesn’t properly represent the actual mechanics going on. In a way, the violent media is the diet, if we are to assume ‘cake’ is actual violent impulses. Killing a person in a videogame is not the same as killing a person, but it can relieve violent urges in a safe space. We only build up actual violent responses if we are incapable of discerning fiction from reality, which would be a mental illness. We both go to the same forum, so we should both be aware that many of us play many many violent games, yet it doesn’t seem to impact our ability to be civil and polite. Now, I’m sure with any community, some of us are bigger jerks than we assume over the internet, but still. We are a WHOLE SOCIETY of violent media, yet we are becoming gradually less violent. I’m interested in what individual studies say about such effects on the micro scale (feel free to throw me what you found over IRC), but on the macro scale we can see whats going on.

    Now if you meant people venting by being dickholes, thats a different story. Yes, that is harmful behavior, but I don’t think it’s harmful in the ‘obvious way’. Someone who’s denying someones rape over twitter probably isn’t actually ‘pro rape’ or anything. He is a contrarian, defending his side while discrediting the other as a part of internet tribalism. The problem isn’t the creation of a rape culture, the problem is the creation of assholes. Though that said, a certain amount of this behavior can be expected as a part of emotional development, but still, it’s not ‘good’, but it’s also not what people think.

    Or at least thats how I understand it.

    As for the ‘accepting of rape’, this might just because I’m a middle class white male or because of the local society I’m a part of, but I’ve never gotten the impression that people ‘accept rape’ in the sense you listed. Feel free to elaborate. That said, if thats the case then I understand their need for a more ‘disjointed’ term.

  15. I’d just like to take the time out to show some appreciation for what looks to be a pretty reasonable assessment of things (and also, having never posted anything before, to praise IWBTG).

    I support Mike and Jerry as well. They’ve just got a crash course in the power of the internet hate machine, and while they didn’t behave admirably, I wouldn’t expect them to.

    At heart, I’d like to think that nobody except some pretty, ahem, hardened feminists question whether Mike and Jerry are good guys. However, they are not professionally educated in gender studies – and when someone who wants nothing more than to confront you and make you uncomfortable starts leveling some of the accusations they have had to face without appealing to their inherent reasonableness, you almost cannot be surprised when the response is dismissive and sarcastic. Whether those concerns are right or wrong, coming out and telling someone right off the bat that they somehow, by some means, support rape does not frame the subsequent debate in any helpful manner. In fact, you don’t get a debate – you get a PR shitstorm for both sides.

    The real sad thing is that I’m not sure either side wants to change minds so much as create strawmen to rail against and pat each others’ backs afterwards.

  16. Thank you for posting and thanks for enjoying IWBTG!

    Yeah, the straw mans are pretty insane. The issue snowballed so much that it’s barely about the comic. I actually think Mike and Jerry were slow to act BECAUSE they didn’t realize it snowballed. They continued being dismissive, but somehow the issue persisted and evolved. Eventually it had nothing to do with a humorously woman being miffed and had to do with, as you said, actual gender issues.

    That said I think theres a lot of rational minds in all this. Some folks (Kade) are quick to lash out, but I think the vast majority of folks just see this as an unfortunate issue that’s snowballed. Sadly not all of my opinionated and vocal kin are entirely fair in their position (though they do exist), so the argument sorta seems crazier than it actually is.

  17. Am I wrong for wishing this whole issue gets dropped as soon as possible? I mean, I pretty much agree with you, Kayin, and I certainly think this has been a better example of a reasonable discussion on the matter; but at the same time I feel that the continuance of debating dickwolves only leads to more disagreements, irrational behavior and embitterment.

    Taking the comic so far out of context is ludicrous, certainly, but I would wish that people respect the wishes of Mike and Jerry and let this drop. There’s no way this is going anywhere but downhill.

  18. Am I the only one who thought the initial objection was totally fine? I read it as just, someone explaining how they were affected by the joke in the comic, and why. Not some sort of harsh accusation against Penny Arcade. Not even that strong of a statement on the perpetuation of “rape culture,” either. I didn’t even find the comments particularly inflammatory or PA-directed. So looking at the timeline, I don’t know, it seems a little off-color that PA put out such a defensive response?

    Anyway, I like that you addressed the possibility that “venting” can be good. I don’t know if that necessarily means that rape jokes are beneficial per se, but it really throws a wrench into the arguments of anyone who believes this to be a black-and-white issue on any level. It’s tough.

  19. I can’t say your wrong, but the thing about opinionated people is like venting about violence and sex, we have to vent our opinions. We can only try and do it as inoffensively as possible.

  20. I don’t think she was ‘wrong’, but I think she was silly. Saying stuff like “I like how people get murdered, but people get raped IN REAL LIFE” is sorta…. missing the point? Obviously it’s her own opinions and they’re not as crazy, but they do seem a little silly, though personal. So I disagree that its totally fine, but I don’t think anyone was being the devil.

  21. These articles (and by “these” I guess I mean just this article the C. Viper breasts one) always seem to drag (to use a less harsh word) jerks like Kade out of the woodwork. Shame that your other posts don’t get as much attention.

    As much as you say you would be just as crass I just can’t believe you. In your post above you were able to effectively explain why it wasn’t, or at least shouldn’t be offensive while being mature, which is more than I can say for the penny arcade fellows. Perhaps getting accused due to something of your own creation would get more under your skin, but hopefully accusations such as the ones in the timeline never fall on your plate. =D

  22. Aaargh. The word “vent” is being used to mean multiple things and it’s tripping people up. Sometimes it’s being used to mean doing small amounts of an activity over time instead of large amounts all at once. Sometimes it’s being used to mean doing activity B instead of activity A.

    Merus posted

    “A crude analogy would be a person on a diet who is presented with cake. They could ‘vent’ by eating the cake, but we know that, most of the time, it breaks their diet. They’ve already crossed that line, and so when presented with cake again, they’re more likely to ‘vent’ again.”

    The point of venting (as referred to in “The Japanese have better material in which to vent with.”) is to do a harmless or less harmful action B in response to a stimulus instead of a harmful or more harmful action A. If you present an analogy in which there is no action B, then venting is going to come out looking awfully ineffective.

    To make the analogy better:
    A person on a diet is presented with cake. They could ‘vent’ by eating a less tasty but filling, zero-calorie (0.01 calories but they can still label it as zero) I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Cake that does not break the diet. They’ve already vented once by eating I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Cake, and so when presented with cake again, they’re more likely to ‘vent’ again by eating I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Cake because they felt relieved after eating it and they didn’t have to feel guilty about eating it instead of normal cake. Some people even start to like ICBINC more than regular cake. Some wives get concerned that their husbands won’t find their real cake satisfying after trying ICBINC. Some people start preferring ICBINCs with strange flavors or eaten with strange utensils or served on plates that play audio of “Eat me.” or “Don’t eat me.” or “Coffee, tea, or me?”

    The analogy can keep going, but I’m gonna go grab some ICBINC.

  23. Late to the party as usual, but I just had to say that this is one of the most thoughtful, balanced and refreshing responses to this absurdity that I’ve encountered so far. Of course, the fact that I agree with most of what you said might have something to do with it. :p

    The initial “controversy” was flat-out absurd, IMO, and I think it could’ve been avoided with more civil communication from the outset. Call me a radical, but I’m pretty sure that “Guys, I went through X, and this comic really hurt me” would’ve created a less toxic starting point than “OMG YOU’RE ENCOURAGING RAPE CULTURE!” On the flipside, though, the Penny Arcade boys could have stepped back from their own [understandable] sense of anger and confusion and not made things worse by antagonizing these people.

  24. Well, a lot of this issue seems to more be based on tone than peoples opinions (not that opinions aren’t a big part of this, but I think poor tone on both sides as caused a lot of freaking out). But yeah, it was probably pretty hard for the PA guys to realize this was ‘real’ drama and not some quick, passing thing. It’s easy to be dismissive to the initial reactions, but they kept that attitude far too long when the argument evolved into something about actual gender issues. Not that the conversation should have progressed to that point, so what can you do?

    Also cute site! I took a look at a few reviews. The Metroid one totally reminds me about how sad I am that they totally destroyed her ‘character’ in Other M(to be far, she didn’t have much before hand) and made her a sniffling, submissive whiner. -_-

  25. “This bit is anecdotal, but I’m not sure I know a man who wouldn’t be filled with rage upon catching a rapist, despite the tasteless jokes some of us might make.”

    Sure you do. Assuming you know more than a handful of people, it’s statistically incredibly really very likely that you do. 1 in 6 women are sexually assaulted in their livetimes. Let’s assume that every rapist is a serial rapist (which isn’t the case, but it makes the hypothetical easier.) If Average Rapist rapes 10 people in their lifetime, that means about 1 in 60 men (assuming that the vast majority of rapists are men) is a rapist.

    This may be a pretty academic calculation to you, but it’s not to the women I know. Rape victims are often blamed for their own rape, and often blame themselves; there’s a lot of pressure on women to be the ones to protect themselves. That means that many women are always, on some level, looking for cues as to which people are trustworthy and which aren’t.

    Violation of personal boundaries is one warning flag. If someone follows a woman home, or won’t accept her refusal of a date, or harasses her online or at work – these are boundaries that are being violated. Even if the violator means well, even if he isn’t a rapist, those violations of boundaries are danger signals to women. I haven’t been raped, but when I think of a group of people walking around wearing shirts that celebrate the existence of rape wolves, shirts created in direct response to protests raised (mostly) by women about rape and boundaries, I feel all those danger signs firing. It feels deeply scary and unsafe. When I think about the waves of threats against many of those that brought up concerns of rape culture, I get a sick, dizzy feeling.

    And I wonder if that isn’t a perpetuation of rape culture in some way. Not just that I don’t feel comfortable going to a con that I really wanted to, but that I am reminded, again, that even though I am part of a community, I can’t count on it to have my back when I need it to. (Whereas the scum that spammed rape victims blogs and emails with threats are given implicit encouragement.)

  26. Well, I wouldn’t say I’m even in a position to actually KNOW 60 men. I don’t even know if I’m friended with 60 men on facebook. I’m sorta a private person, but whatever. That part of it is mostly semantic — and besides, your estimation was far too generous. You have a lot more to say then just numbers.

    Now as your typical White Male, I can only speak properly from my side. I can only speak on male psychology and try and reduce fear — not that it’s less likely for you to get raped (unfortunately), but that the woefully immature behavior from members of my gender are not a sign of ‘MORE RAPE INCOMING”, as much as us just being stupid, insensitive animals. We, on average, are not particularly good at peacefully releasing our aggressive energies and when we feel attacked by ‘feminists’: that our harmless fun is real, harmful fun and that we’re all terrible rape apolgists. we tend to respond in a vast of array and socially dense ways. Now, no one has really ‘said’ that. No one reasonable has, anyhow… but remember, sides of a debate are generally painted by the worst, most venomous opinions. This might sound hilarious (because in a way it is hilarious), but even white men can worry about their ‘rights’. They lash out then, not because they want to disrespect women, but they feel their own identity attacked. Is this reasonable, especially in comparison to the plight of women? Pfft, no, but no one likes their identity attacked and since men are more likely to be naturally aggressive, well… Well the whole situation gets out of hand. I think we can agree on that. But I doubt anyone is like “Now i’m going to go spite-rape some chicks’. Those wearing dickwolves shirts (which would include me if I had one, though if I went to PAX I’d have the good taste not to wear it there) aren’t supporting rape, they’re being absurdist, contrarian and/or offensive. They are, if anything, simply being rude and insensitive.

    So all I can do is try and convince you that a place like PAX would be no worse a place. It’s not unreasonable if you don’t find any comfort in this — you are the one constantly at risk of sexual assault. These things are easy for me to say and I respect that your position is far different. It would make me happy if you were able to strengthen your resolve and confidence enough to be able to attend PAX, but again, your fears are based on legitimate ones. I can tell you that theres no sensible reason that PAX would be any more risky, but I could be misled, or, even if I’m right, your fear could still spoil your enjoyment.

    I do think you should have more faith in the community your in. Even if one in five men are rapists, the rest have your back. In nerd culture, women are precious, especially the intelligent, well spoken ones. I hope nothing I said was offensive or dismissive toward you, as I didn’t mean anything in such a way. This was by far the hardest comment I’ve had to reply to and I’m not sure I even did an adequate job, embarrassingly. But I thank you for your reply, as it also made me think the most.

  27. Just one more thing and a piece of advice. When given the chance to safely ask whether or not someone is being evil or stupid, I would say, far far more often than not, they are being stupid. Of course, considering the topic, ‘safely’ is the big issue here, but it’s just something to consider.

  28. Sure. And I don’t even think “stupid”, per se – there’s things that are difficult to see unless you’re living them, sometimes even then. A lot of kind, generous, honest, trustworthy, caring people are also straight men (and vice versa). And it is damn difficult to see things that you don’t experience, or experience differently, especially when there’s a strong cultural belief that women’s voices aren’t as important or rational as men’s. (And it’s not like I don’t have a boatload of work to do on issues of race, transgender, etc.)

    “I do think you should have more faith in the community your in. Even if one in five men are rapists, the rest have your back.”

    Some of them do, and they’re awesome. But look again at some of the responses to women – and men – who have discussed this issue publicly. People have threatened to rape them, and “rape [them] to death”. People have posted pictures of mutilated women. People have deliberately tried to trigger PTSD in posters who have discussed it. The shirts are pretty bad in themselves, honestly; but they’ve also become emblems of a group of people who feel comfortable questioning whether or not rape victims have actually been raped. And the response from PAX has been, even in the most generous terms, lukewarm.

    Which brings me to: women aren’t psychic. We don’t really have any way of ascertaining whether or not someone’s a threat, other than their behavior. (See also: Schroedinger’s Rapist ) Which means that nice guys – genuinely kind, caring, honest, trustworthy guys – can end up hurting women. And worse, if you’re not standing up against misogyny, you may be fostering an atmosphere that gives tacit support to guys who don’t get it.

    This really isn’t “if you don’t do what I say, you’re a bad guy!” But look at it from a rapist’s perspective for a sec. He’s coming to a con. How he behaves is *entirely his choice*. But it may, in part, be based on what he sees, or feels is acceptable. (Sort of the way I decide whether or not it’s okay to swear – I look around and see if anyone else is swearing, or telling dirty jokes, or whether the president of the company has just walked in.) And at a con where the figureheads have sold T-shirts that some people found threatening, and one of the figureheads is going to wear his (allegedly), despite being asked by at least one rape victim not to, and various people have come forward with concerns about their emotional well being, and a small but not completely inconsequential portion of the fanbase have been, at best, total fucking assholes toward and about rape victims, women, and people talking about PTSD . . . well, I worry that it sends signals to our rapist comrade that he is with his people, that the community has his back. Combined with the fact that the confident rapist is going to be walking around with a bunch of nice guys who are exhibiting cues that I usually flag mentally as “dangerous” . . . yikes, you know?

    I don’t have stats for rape in circumstances where rapists feel safer vs. less safe. But I have observed that the misogynists I know feel much more confident being hostile when they feel like they’re in control, or that the higher ups have their backs. In places where it’s clear that That Shit is Not OK, it’s never entirely gone, but it’s never as bad.

    “This was by far the hardest comment I’ve had to reply to and I’m not sure I even did an adequate job, embarrassingly.”

    Better than adequate – thoughtful and honest. Thank you.

  29. Thank you for another excellent reply. Also that link was a very interesting view into the female view (also oh jesus that is like the most comments on anything ever on that link. The scroll bar practically didn’t move by the time I was done).

    I think we both accept that we each have an incomplete picture of here of this whole social interaction and it is unfortunate that you are the one far disproportionally at risk. I would though, if you didn’t already, take a look at the ‘monkey sphere’ article I posted in the thread. I think it explains the dickwolves situation pretty well. People can say some grotesque and deplorable things when their far detached from the people they’re replying to. It’s the same reason people are dicks over internet games. Sure they’re ‘anonymous’, but on something like say XBL, where they can be banned for harassment, they really aren’t. Instead, they just don’t look at strangers as real people. We can only care about so many people (this is called the ‘Dunbar number’, which is around 200 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar_number ). A lot of people are still very good (or save enough emotional space) to allow proper empathy for strangers, but it’s still not quite the same. Other people don’t try and fight it at all.

    The only other thing I’ll say is that even if PAX was slightly more ‘rape friendly’ than previous years (I’d actually guess less so, because I think more people will be looking out for trouble this year, but thats ENTIRELY a guess on my part), I still would imagine it would be a far and large bit safer than any other social establishment. I don’t want to sound like I’m pressuring you to go, but it saddens me a bit to hear that you’ve been denied something you want. I can’t at all blame you for how you feel toward the event now, but I can hope that you find a way a way to still go and safely enjoy your self, if such a thing is still possible.

  30. Hmm. So my understanding of the Dunbar number is that beyond the 200-ish limit, there are still ways of bonding, just less personalized. (Wiki: “Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group.”) I don’t really need deep empathy from everyone I meet; they don’t need to have a personal interest in my welfare. I’m more concerned with actions than intent.

    I think it’s possible to not be a total jerk to everyone except those in your Dunbar set. Some of that is extension of empathy – “Bob, who I care about, is really hurt when I refer to atheists as hell-bound, morally bankrupt Satanists. Maybe I should also not call other atheists the same thing!” Some of it can come from persuasive writing, vivid novels or settings, visiting places, correlative personal experiences, etc. Others get it from friends – someone they trust goes “Dude, not okay”. Others won’t ever get it, but still manage to behave like a normal, nice person in some circumstances. (For example, I know at least one internet troll who tips waiters well and is a model customer.)

    So the Dunbar number is an issue, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of the discussion. If I step on someone’s foot, it doesn’t matter whether I understand his pain, as long as I stop stepping on his foot. If a gamer using a wheelchair pointed out that the one of the con rooms needed a ramp to be accessible, it doesn’t matter whether he is in someone’s Dunbar set or not, as long as the ramp gets built. I don’t need people to understand per se why seeing significant groups of people wearing dickwolves t-shirts is threatening under these circumstances, as long as they stop doing it. This kind of response requires that a) people listen when other people say “You’re standing on my FOOT.”, and b) they move.

    Simplistic reduction, I know. I share a lot of concerns about censorship (not that this issue is censorship, but it does call up Demons of the Past), and I think a lot of geeks carry around childhood scars from being told that the stuff they do and enjoy isn’t worthwhile or valuable. (On the other hand, maybe that feeling of isolation will help people understand the values of including women and minorities’ voices. I don’t know.)

  31. Oh you’re absolutely correct, and this is why society doesn’t collapse. But in private interactions, like on the internet, people are less likely to trip any ‘safe guards’ about being a huge asshole. They don’t see you as a human being, unless they’re reminded they should. You’re right in that it isn’t the whole issue — as like said, the geek scars of the past definitely lend to the desire to ‘lash out’. There is probably in a lot of cases, while not necessarily misogyny, negative emotions associated with women coming down on them. My point is merely that many of the worst responses were the results of people lacking empathy or thinking about how they’d actually effect the people they directed their words at.

    Obviously theres a lot of real issues that need to be addressed, but things tend to not be as bad as they might seem. :)

  32. Yes, I get that. But, you know, if someone steps on your foot, it hurts regardless of whether they do it deliberately or it was a accident. Intent isn’t fucking magic; just because someone doesn’t *intend* to bolster rape myths by, say, questioning whether rape victims are telling the truth about being raped doesn’t mean that the effects are magically transmuted into sunshine and roses instead. I guess it’s nice that most people don’t realize the sort of torment they’re stirring up for others, but it’s nice in sort of an theoretical way.

    In response, many of the people who have been asked to stop doing hurtful behaviors have responded defensively, and often stepped up those same behaviors. Sort of a knee-jerk “Of course it doesn’t hurt! I didn’t mean it to! Look, if I grind my foot down into yours, I don’t see you suffering at all! I think your yelp of pain sounded totally fake! People just go around looking for ways to be injured, anyway!” (An amalgam of things that I can pretty easily provide you equivalent comments for in just about any comment thread on the topic.) And after months of escalating assholeness, it becomes sort of hard to defend these things with a straight face as just carelessness or thoughtlessness. (“I had *NO IDEA* that threatening to rape a rape victim might be considered in poor taste, much less foster an environment of hostility towards women! Huh! I guess you learn something new every day!”)

    I am way less concerned with the motivations and feelings of the people who are hurting others than with concrete actions that can be taken to make it stop. Spending time sorting the accidental assholes out from the deliberate ones means that time and energy is being focused on the wrong group – it’s basically a derail from the actual issues.

    This seems important to you, though, so I do want to emphasize that I know and understand that many of the people who are doing loathsome things are not irredeemable abusers. Doing something that affects minorities or women negatively is pretty much par for the course in our society. Everyone, including every single feminist I have ever read/met/heard of, missteps. But focusing too much energy on making sure that everyone knows you’re not REALLY a bad person means you’re also not spending time on repairing the damage that has been done. And it can create a sort of ugly feedback loop, because it means that more focus is put on the feelings of those who are hurting others than those who have been hurt.

    “There is probably in a lot of cases, while not necessarily misogyny, negative emotions associated with women coming down on them”

    Could you expand on that a little? I’m not sure what you’re thinking of that isn’t necessarily misogynistic.

  33. Well let me be clear, I’m not ‘defending’ these people — or at least, not defending their actions. Let me go with the ‘step on the foot’ example. If you step on my foot, it hurts. But do I assume that they were trying to hurt me? Then I say “Hey, you stepped on my foot!” to which they reply “Well you should have watched where you were going!” Well, still pretty sure they didn’t mean to step on my foot…. but they are assholes, and the hurt to my foot is indeed real. Now you can ask, “what does it matter? My foot hurts!”, and that is technically fine. For me though, I like to try and understand how and why things happen. The more ‘realistically’ you can view a situation, the easier it is to react sensibly. If someone cuts you off on the highway, you could assume they’re a horrible driver, or a bad person, or a spiteful jerk, but more than likely they were just about to piss their exit and made a bad decision. You could follow them and scream and get angry at them, or you can realize people make mistakes and relax. In the PAX case, it’s about extrapolating what the actions MEAN. Depending on how you look at it, the drama from penny arcade either means PAX is overflowing with rapists, with rapists, or that it was just an embarrassing social blip, exposing the worst in people while not actually changing anything about a convention of people.

    People who were emotionally hurt by the incident have all the right to feel that way, but when it comes to considering what to do AFTERWARD, it is best (though not always possible, to keep a level head. Not always possible of course — emotions are a strong things, — but I think it’s something to strive toward. We’re flawed creatures and so many of our internal mechanisms seem tuned to not be able to properly understand the thoughts and motivations of the wider world around us. So for me, personally, the ‘why’ is a hugely important question, because it helped illuminate the way forward.

    As for my comment about misogyny, I guess it would depend on definitions. But what I would more refer to would be, for many nerds, a fear of women. A fear and frustration of being hurt themselves. This can be labeled under misogyny, but I tend to think of that as more of an ingrained hate, especially a long lasting one. I’d say most males go through a period that could be described as ‘misogynistic’, but I think is more characterized by fear and misunderstanding than hate. It’s awkwardness, when the ice hasn’t properly been broken yet. It can even be self loathing and a lack of self worth. All these things can also lead to what I think of as ‘misogyny’, or, at the very least, an undeniably harmful type of misogyny, but in a lot of situations I think it’s just a phase a lot of geeks stay in longer than other people.

    It sorta frustrates me that a lot of words have shades of possible meanings that aren’t all equal, so I tend to prefer more ‘exclusive’ definitions.

  34. ” Depending on how you look at it, the drama from penny arcade either means PAX is overflowing with rapists, with rapists, or that it was just an embarrassing social blip, exposing the worst in people while not actually changing anything about a convention of people.”

    Uh, whoa. I think there’s been a big miscommunication here. Where do you see me saying that? I do think that the events surrounding PAX have demonstrably had an effect on the expression of hatred towards women from parts of the community. (I’d argue there’s been more subtle effects as well.) And I do believe that that will spill over into the con, and it’s true that makes me, and some other members of the community, feel less emotionally and physically safe. Which is not the same as a convention “overflowing” with rapists.

    “People who were emotionally hurt by the incident have all the right to feel that way, but when it comes to considering what to do AFTERWARD, it is best (though not always possible, to keep a level head.”
    ” You could follow them and scream and get angry at them, or you can realize people make mistakes and relax.”

    These are a couple in your reply (with more in previous comments) that refers to rational, objective, calm vs. emotional, subjective, overreaction. There is a long, ugly history associated with this dichotomy, and it’s very frequently used as a derailing tactic.

    You are not in a position of calm objectivity on this one; as you noted earlier, both our positions are subjective. What we can see is limited by our experiences, and what we can glean from others. May I suggest to you that I, having experience as a woman, and a woman gamer, and as someone who has spent, literally, years of her life studying feminism and gender issues, have some additional perspectives that you don’t?

    I didn’t mean to imply that it’s never worth examining why people act and feel the way they do. It is worthwhile. But at the moment, it’s not the thing I care about. I’m still in the “trying not to crash because I got cut off” phase – in other words, damage control. And when I do think about why this happened, I’m much more interested in community dynamics than personal intent; questions like: how did this snowball? What was going on with leadership? What are ways that social norms might or might not affect group behavior?

    From my POV, many of the jerks have long passed the point where I can excuse their behavior as a single misstep or mistake. It may have started that way, but when those mistakes string out into months and months of repetitive or escalating poor behavior, it is no longer a case of a simple accident or misunderstanding, and I think some of the group norms helps explain how we get from generally-a-more-or-less-nice human being at point A to complete-and-utter asshole at point B, without the person in question stopping to twirl his mustache and cackle madly in the middle.

    “Depending on how you look at it, the drama from penny arcade either means PAX is overflowing with rapists, with rapists, or that it was just an embarrassing social blip, exposing the worst in people while not actually changing anything about a convention of people.”

    And, of course, it can mean both. Rapists are not another species that’s somehow different and automatically evil; they’re people with jobs and families and hobbies, and there are, by pretty much any calculation, sort of a lot of them. Encouraging the worst in them is not some purely benign thing. (Overflowing is an overstatement of my position, but still: a lot, even if my numbers were high to begin with.)

    It’s not even a purely benign thing when just confined to the web, as they have been in these cases (so far). Issues of harassment and threats are serious issues, even when physical danger isn’t an issue – and again, physical safety isn’t something that we can know about any individual case, since cyberharrassment and stalking can escalate to real life.

    I’d classify general fear of women under misogyny (or at least sexism – you’re right, word choice gets a little dicey). The geek culture variant of this seems especially steeped in the idea that women are mysterious unfathomable creatures, rather than, you know, people! Just like men!*

    *Well, okay, not just like men. We have different dangly bits. But not mysterious ones – thanks to the internet, it’s pretty easy to find out everything you might ever want to know about dangly bits.

  35. Hahah, I apologize, I was just exaggerating. I tend to be sorta… hyperbolic when I argue generally and didn’t mean anything by that, other to paint an extreme end of the spectrum. I didn’t mean to paint that as YOUR position (or the position of anyone reasonable), just as an example. I can totally see how you construed it that way though and that’s a ‘my bad’. I might act all thoughtful, but usually all my carefully constructed thoughts are presented with a fair degree of flair and ‘trolling’. I’ve been trying to be careful about tone with this issue, but I guess I ‘slipped’.

    As opposed to calm, rational thinking, this is clearly a difference in values between us that probably cannot be changed. It’s part of who I am, as a person (or more, who I’ve become, as I was a fiery youth). But I don’t think it’s a problem, as long as we both realize this different. I don’t expect you to think the same way about these things and given your position in this debacle, it’d be even more unreasonable. My only goal here is to share with you what I know — or at least, what I think I know — about the nature of men and our behavior, so that you or others can hopefully either find a reason to either relax or change your understanding of the situation. I’m trying to share my piece of what I think is ‘truth’ — that bit of the incomplete picture everyone has. In a way we haven’t really been arguing with each other. We are retorting and giving counter points, but what we’ve really been sharing is perspective. I don’t expect you to take what I’m saying and accept it fully and be all chipper about it, but I simply hope you walk away with something, as I feel I will have when this conversation is over. I can’t change the emotions you feel and everything we do as people (even those of us who try and be ‘rational’ all the time) is influenced by those emotions. We’re not robots, nor would being robots be much fun (unless we had jetpacks).

    As for the geek misogyny thing, I think the big difference (As you said your self, it is sorta dicey) between the general perception of misogynists and geek culture is one is unmerited and the other is “merited”(big finger in the air quotes) due to ignorance. I think we can agree that women, on average, are quite a deal different from men. We both certainly know those who cross over the gender lines more than others, but to young adults, or older geeks, women remain mysterious because they have never had a chance to understand them. People can also feel the same way toward other cultures and societies, not in a hateful way, but in a nervous, unsure way due to not knowing any better. We fear the unknown. This, I think is an even more complex issue than the dickwolves situation, because I can’t perceive this ever NOT being true. Women are always going to be mysterious to men for a portion of their lives, even if the adult end of society has finally gotten to the point where women are true equals. Now I think this is all good and interesting, but to get back to the the issue, despite all that, I don’t want to sound like I support the people who act poorly due to this, or other reasons. It’s merely about interpreting the situation. Your frustration and condemnation for these people is perfectly justified and merited. I don’t want you to be confused about that. I also don’t want you to think I expect you to be as detached as I am. That would be unreasonable and unfair. I am merely just sharing my thoughts and perspective. You are free to do what you wish with what I say and I won’t mind at all.

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