June 6, 2013

therealianbohen:

After taking quite a bit of heat for the tweet below, I’ve decided to formulate my response here, for those who care to take the time to read it outside of 160 characters.

This morning I read the details of the horrific gang rape of a 16 year old girl in Northern California, and was moved to post the following.

            “Hey Parents. Teach your boys how to treat women properly, and your girls how to be ladies. The shit I’m reading in the news makes me sick.”

 

Of all the criticism that followed, being accused of slut-shaming is by far the most egregious.  Honestly?  I, the shamer of sluts?  Oh contraire…

[Cut for length and bullshit. Read the rest here.]

The ‘backlash’ as you call it, wasn’t over your use of lady, and I’ll table the discussion of why I should be allowed to be a sarcastic, lazy slacker if I want to for the moment.

It’s because your tweet managed to imply men and women are equally responsible for men raping women. That women’s failure to be ‘ladies’ is equally at fault for rape as men’s disregard for their personhood.

And that is victim-blaming. We’ve heard it all before, Sir. And we’ve tried that route. It doesn’t work.

Women asleep in their beds are raped. Women are raped by the parents you think should be raising them as ladies. Little girls are raped. Women who are timid and women who are bold are raped. trans* women and cis women are raped. High class ladies in the 1800s were raped. (And yes, men and boys are raped too. Should they be ‘ladies’ to prevent it?) Women cannot prevent rape by their behavior. The only way to stop rape is to stop enabling and creating rapists.

And that starts by not spreading the bullshit myth that women could stop rape if only we behaved.

(via therealianbohen-deactivated2013)

April 17, 2013
"The Steubenville rape victim was certainly someone’s daughter. She may have been someone’s sister. Someday she might even be someone’s wife. But these are not the reasons why raping her was wrong. This rape, and any rape, was wrong because women are people. Women are people, rape is wrong, and no one should ever be raped. End of story.

The “wives, sisters, daughters” line of argument comes up all the fucking time. President Obama even used it in his State of the Union address this year, saying,

“We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence.”

This device, which Obama has used on more than one occasion, is reductive as hell. It defines women by their relationships to other people, rather than as people themselves. It says that women are only important when they are married to, have given birth to, or have been fathered by other people. It says that women are only important because of who they belong to.

Women are not possessions.

Women are people."

“I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter. I Am A Person” by The Belle Jar  (via theuncolonizedmind)

(Source: apolloadama, via me-ya-ri)

October 27, 2012
holybat:

[tw: rape, sexism, victim blaming, harassment]
timeofthedecade:

bigdaddyg-wil:

this guy pulled out his dick in front of like 5 billion feminist protestors holy shit

Some context for the idiots claiming the women are overreacting:
This occurred at a Slut Walk. For those not familiar with it, the Slut Walk is basically a peaceful protest seeking to eliminate the rape apologism so prevalent in society. The basis is that no woman is “asking for it,” with “it” being rape. It’s not a feminist protest; it’s a human rights protest.
Many of the protesters, as you can probably imagine, have dealt with sexual harassment or rape in their own lives. Many of them have structured their daily activities to avoid being raped. The gathering is supposed to be a place for them to feel empowered and able to recover in the company of those who understand what they’ve been through or who will not blame them.
Nobody at a Slut Walk will tell a survivor that it’s her fault. They will not ask what she was wearing to provoke her attacker. Nobody will say she had too much to drink. Nobody will tell the men in the group that they are inherently rapists themselves, and nobody will tell a male survivor that his experience “wasn’t really rape.”
Then, this fellow comes along. He sees this gathering of survivors and their supporters, and to him, it’s a joke. He sees feminazis. He sees girls who are taking “a bit of fun” too seriously. And what does he do? He exposes himself to this group of survivors and supporters - some of whom are, in fact, underage.
He sexually harasses literally hundreds of women in one act. Aside from public indecency, there was cruel intent in his actions. He wanted to make them uncomfortable. He wanted to “put them in their place.” Other photos from this event show him flipping the protesters off and laughing at their anger.
And there are still people defending his actions. There are those who still feel like these women were asking for itand that they deserved to be harassed for trying to claim they weren’t. There are those who feel that women should be taught a lesson this way, and they applaud this man’s actions.
So no, he didn’t pull out his dick in front of feminist protesters. He harassed dozens - if not hundreds - of rape survivors. The reaction to his actions alone outline the purpose of the Slut Walk.
For those of you still doubting whether what he did was wrong (and I do wonder if there’s something wrong with you, if you have doubts), let me give you an analogous situation. Imagine a gathering of black civil rights activists. Imagine Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and all their colleagues gathered together to demonstrate that being black did not make them lesser people. That being black and living in the South did not mean they were “asking” to be the target of hate crimes.
And at this gathering, a white man decides he should teach them a lesson by pointedly hanging a noose from the nearest tree and laughing at their anger. And other white men, laughing along with him, commend him for taking these activists down a peg.
That’s what happened here. It’s not an “OMG, I can’t believe he did that!” moment. It’s an “OMG, there are people who think this is okay” moment. And the fact is, it’s not. It never will be. And that’s the take home message of this ridiculous rant I’ve written up.

holybat:

[tw: rape, sexism, victim blaming, harassment]

timeofthedecade:

bigdaddyg-wil:

this guy pulled out his dick in front of like 5 billion feminist protestors holy shit

Some context for the idiots claiming the women are overreacting:

This occurred at a Slut Walk. For those not familiar with it, the Slut Walk is basically a peaceful protest seeking to eliminate the rape apologism so prevalent in society. The basis is that no woman is “asking for it,” with “it” being rape. It’s not a feminist protest; it’s a human rights protest.

Many of the protesters, as you can probably imagine, have dealt with sexual harassment or rape in their own lives. Many of them have structured their daily activities to avoid being raped. The gathering is supposed to be a place for them to feel empowered and able to recover in the company of those who understand what they’ve been through or who will not blame them.

Nobody at a Slut Walk will tell a survivor that it’s her fault. They will not ask what she was wearing to provoke her attacker. Nobody will say she had too much to drink. Nobody will tell the men in the group that they are inherently rapists themselves, and nobody will tell a male survivor that his experience “wasn’t really rape.”

Then, this fellow comes along. He sees this gathering of survivors and their supporters, and to him, it’s a joke. He sees feminazis. He sees girls who are taking “a bit of fun” too seriously. And what does he do? He exposes himself to this group of survivors and supporters - some of whom are, in fact, underage.

He sexually harasses literally hundreds of women in one act. Aside from public indecency, there was cruel intent in his actions. He wanted to make them uncomfortable. He wanted to “put them in their place.” Other photos from this event show him flipping the protesters off and laughing at their anger.

And there are still people defending his actions. There are those who still feel like these women were asking for itand that they deserved to be harassed for trying to claim they weren’t. There are those who feel that women should be taught a lesson this way, and they applaud this man’s actions.

So no, he didn’t pull out his dick in front of feminist protesters. He harassed dozens - if not hundreds - of rape survivors. The reaction to his actions alone outline the purpose of the Slut Walk.

For those of you still doubting whether what he did was wrong (and I do wonder if there’s something wrong with you, if you have doubts), let me give you an analogous situation. Imagine a gathering of black civil rights activists. Imagine Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and all their colleagues gathered together to demonstrate that being black did not make them lesser people. That being black and living in the South did not mean they were “asking” to be the target of hate crimes.

And at this gathering, a white man decides he should teach them a lesson by pointedly hanging a noose from the nearest tree and laughing at their anger. And other white men, laughing along with him, commend him for taking these activists down a peg.

That’s what happened here. It’s not an “OMG, I can’t believe he did that!” moment. It’s an “OMG, there are people who think this is okay” moment. And the fact is, it’s not. It never will be. And that’s the take home message of this ridiculous rant I’ve written up.

(Source: george-w-bushes, via candypinkcocks)

September 26, 2012
[TW: rape culture, rape and abuse details] So Pennsylvania is preparing to execute someone for killing the man who sexually abused him, beginning when he was 13.

lightspeedsound:

stfurapeculture:

why-you-gatta-be-like-that:

stfurapeculture:

Two things stand out about the case of Terry Williams: First, he allegedly suffered a traumatic childhood of sexual and physical abuse, and ultimately killed two of his alleged abusers. Second, a broad coalition of organizations, religious leaders, advocates and others — including the widow of one of his victims and several of the jurors who convicted him — are calling for clemency for Terry.

Just to recap:

  • Young boy suffers horrible abuse both within and outside his family.
  • Boy goes to juvenile detention, and is raped twice there.
  • Boy is raped repeatedly by two middle aged men, whom he later kills when he is 17 and 18 years old.
  • Boy is sentenced to death for killing the adult man who began raping him when he was 13 years old.

This is completely reprehensible. The state of Pennsylvania is responsible for the rapes that occurred while this child was in their custody. And now they want to proceed with an execution when he finally snapped and took the lives of his abusers. No one protected him. No one helped him.

This man should not lose his life. He was a victim, plain and simple. There is a petition going around, urging clemency for him. Please consider signing.

What the hell.. Even the widow is asking for mercy, why isn’t the State listening?

Only reason I can think of is to cover their own trip ups with him getting raped in their custody.

I don’t think they need to cover that up because the general public doesn’t seem to care that much about what happens to prisoners in custody—even when they’re minors.

I think the issue is that the criminal justice system does not like to consider that they may have been wrong. Troy Davis comes to mind. He was executed last year in Georgia, in spite of the evidence suggesting he was most likely innocent. So I don’t think PA is alone in its quest to carry out sentences regardless of new evidence, or evidence that was withheld at original trial.

PA takes the blame for having the death penalty at all though. And for not having to explicitly tell jurors that a life sentence would not include the possibility of parole.

ETA: And of course the whole criminal justice system is steeped in racism. So that is a big factor as well.

^^^Having studied rape law, I can honestly say that the victims get screwed over multiple ways to next Tuesday. 

(via daggerpen)

September 21, 2012
Ugh. Spontaneous Bane and Melisande feels.

Someone posted this in the Talia tag, okay? I can’t be held responsible for what I just wrote-

“Making a brutal choice, the masked man held onto the frantic child and dragged the youngster into the shadows, away from the attackers, who fell upon the woman like a pack of ravening wolves.” P. 273-274, TDKR Novelization

Bane met Melisande’s eyes as she was dragged down. Terror and pride both shone in them, and a howl of denial clawed at his throat. Not her, not his friend, not the woman who had survived six years in the pit. Not Melisande.

"Don’t look." Bane clutched Talia tightly, retreating to the furthest corner from the mad frenzy. He watched. Every moment, every face, marking them out. She would be avenged.

It seemed to last forever until at last the men slunk away, leaving only Melisande’s…Bane swallowed back gorge. Leaving her battered body.

"Come, Talia. We need to lay your mother to rest." Bane knelt and removed his shirt, and wrapped it around Melisande’s still and breathless frame, hiding the worst of the damage. He lifted her body into his arms, cradling it like an infant.

Talia clung to his pant’s leg, and together, they carried Melisande home.

No one dared speak when Bane and Talia entered Melisande’s cell instead of his own. There was still a bowl of water sitting on the floor, with a cloth rag where Melisande had left it. His vision blurred. Talia sobbed, once, before muffling the sound.

Bane laid down his friend and picked up the rag. Then carefully, tenderly, he began to wash the signs of her violation from Melisande’s body.

Hours later, when finally their jailors came to retrieve the corpse, they found Bane and Talia sitting vigil between Melisande and the cell door. Blocking their path.

Bane looked at them, and said nothing.

"We will take care of my mother," Talia said from Bane’s lap, regal as her mother and twice as cold. "Leave."

September 16, 2012
[TW: Rape] SIGNAL BOOST. A RAPE VITIM IS GOING TO BE EXECUTED FOR KILLING HIS RAPIST. PLEASE READ AND TAKE A EITHER A SECOND TO REBLOG OR A FEW SECONDS TO SIGN THE PETITION.

agender-queer:

neurobeetle:

http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-tom-corbett-pa-board-of-pardons-district-attorney-seth-williams-grant-clemency-to-terrance-williams-survivor-of-child-sexual-abuse?utm_source=action_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=10675&alert_id=haqebjIzZe_pAbEWFZzIF

EXECUTION IS ON OCTOBER 3RD. PLEASE SIGN! 

Fuck.

This person shouldn’t even be in prison. 

(via daggerpen)

September 9, 2012
One in three Native American women report they have been raped. More needs to be done to bring perpetrators to justice. That is more than 2.5 times the national average. And if you think those numbers are staggering, consider who is carrying out these attacks: at least 86% of sexual assaults are reportedly being perpetrated by non-Native men, according to the US Department of Justice.

reallyfoxnews:

tw: sexual violence

Today in READ ME.

Also, today in things that would have gone a long way to help with this problem if the House Republicans hadn’t gutted it: a provision in the Violence Against Women act to remedy the legal problems between tribal/non-tribal courts in prosecuting these crimes that they TOOK OUT.

(via daggerpen)

September 8, 2012
[tw: mention of abuse, rape] Circle of 6 App - a free app that prevents violence before it happens

daggerpen:

inflateablefilth:

oldmanyellsatcloud:

aviantheatrics:

collababortion:

FINALLY AVAILABLE FOR ANDROID!!

I’m stoked about this app - it was created in response to a White House challenge to create an app to help prevent sexual violence.  It’s free. It’s available for iPhones and Androids. It could save you or someone you care about.

WHOA WOWOW WHAT A GOOD

IF YOU HAVE A SMARTPHONE THIS IS AMAZING I HAVE WANTED SOMETHING LIKE THIS FOREVER

For the linkphobic or lazy: It’s an app that lets you pre-select up to 6 of your contacts. It then has four buttons that automatically deploys a message to all of the selected numbers - a car icon that deploys a text saying “I need to get home now” that AUTOMATICALLY INCLUDES YOUR CURRENT GPS LOCATION AND A GOOGLEMAP TO WHEREVER YOU ARE, a phone icon that deploys a text reading “I need a distraction, please call me and pretend you need me”, an icon when you’re unsure or nervous about a relationship or sexual situation that sends you links to websites and resources and deploys an appropriate text, and the proverbial oh-shit button that automatically contacts two emergency contacts or hotlines of your choice

what a good app

And don’t forget: The fact that you have something that can near-instantly send a quick photograph or video to a secure e-mail server can in and of itself be a powerful weapon against multiple forms of violence before it even happens.

Your electronic eye can be a weapon in and of itself.

TW’d this cause it made me have weird feelings about my second rape because this could have saved me, I think. 

This app will not guarantee that you will not be raped. Failure to download this app in no way implies any type of irresponsibility on the part of the person who doesn’t download it. And it’s sad as fuck that this app has to exist.

It is, however, definitely a good tool to get out of an unsafe situation if you have to. Signal boost.

August 17, 2012
Trans friendly Rape Survivors Resources

andythenerd:

Also, RAINN (national clearinghouse) is trans* affirming

And local to St Louis:
the YWCA St. Louis regional sexual assault center
Crime Victims Advocacy Center 
Rescue and Restore coalition (human trafficking, forced commercial sex)
AVAP (hate violence)
are all trans* affirming (and actively engaged in becoming more so.) 
Transhaven is also able to provide direct advocacy services, helping survivors of sexual assault to interface with the network of anti-violence agencies in the St. Louis region.

(Source: vagina-pagina, via daggerpen)

August 4, 2012
Rape Culture In Gaming

justsayins:

Rape Culture In Gaming

fozmeadows:

About a week ago, I wrote a post on Penny Arcade vs. Rape Culture, which sent my blog traffic skyrocketing after it was linked on Reddit. However, both in comments on the post itself and elsewhere on Reddit, quite a few people seemed to be missing the point: or, more specifically, misunderstanding what rape culture actually is and how it applies to gaming. One commenter, in fact, responded thusly:

My mind is boggled that you feel righteous in condemning something people enjoy, especially when it’s not even real. Do you realize that’s what you’re doing? You’re standing up and telling all these people, people you don’t know, that what they’re enjoying is *wrong*. You don’t have numbers or statistics or any sort of fact behind you quantifying how what they do is wrong. None. Telling people that what they enjoy in the privacy of their own homes in a virtual reality contributes to a Rape Culture is crazy. What’s next? Telling people what sort of porn they can watch, what sort of books they can read?

Seriously, show some facts. Show a concrete link between this and that, between playing the computer game and a rise in rape statistics. I know, I know, it’s not “Rape” it’s “Rape Culture”, so you conveniently don’t have to show *any* facts. Which is the one saving grace in all this. In the real world, for laws to pass and things to change, you have to show concrete evidence of your position. I remember how they tried to do that with Computer Games and Violence, and how no one was able to draw *any* sort of factual link between one and the other that would stand in any court of law.

Which is what made me decide that, rather than linking to any number of excellent rape culture 101 posts online, there might be a need for an explanation of rape culture tailored specifically to gaming. Because, let’s face it: gaming culture has so often been singled out by lazy politicians as the root cause of society’s ills – which is to say, as being inextricably bound up with violence, obesity, immaturity and so on – that it’s small wonder most gamers, on hearing it simultaneously accused of rape culture, are likely to roll their eyes. After all, those other accusations are only so much hot air, and tend to stem from a deeply prejudicial view of games and geekery besides – so why on Earth should rape culture be any different?

From the outset, we need to acknowledge something critical: that gaming is primarily a digital culture, and that digital cultures – while analogous in many ways to other cultures – happen in venues that lack a physical presence. Yes, there are gaming expos, conventions and tournaments where gamers come together, while many friends who meet up regularly IRL will also game together online or at lans. But the difference between gaming culture and, say, workplace culture is that the latter occurs primarily – if not exclusively – in a specific physical location inhabited by all the individual participants in that culture. What this means is that a Venn diagram of the overlap between social interactions, physical proximity and guiding culture for any given workplace would practically be a circle, as all three elements would, with very few exceptions, happen in the same space. But the same diagram of gaming culture would look drastically different: physical proximity would barely have any overlap with guiding culture and social interactions, which would themselves be separate, because proximity is a meaningless concept in digital environments, guiding culture doesn’t come from a single body but from multiple competing sources, and social interactions are less a byproduct of something else – like being at work – than they are a primary point of gaming.

And what this means for rape culture, which is a term we most often hear applied to cultures that do center on a physical environment – such as, for instance, sports clubs and fraternities – is that right from the offset, people are confused about how it can apply to digital environments in comparable ways. Because for both sports clubs and fraternities, rape is a significant problem; it is an actual, physical consequence that happens in the actual, physical environments associated with their cultures. Hardly a week goes by without some sporting hero somewhere being accused of rape or sexual assault, while the dangers faced by women at fraternity parties are a mainstay of both popular culture and popular knowledge. So when we talk about rape culture being promoted by this football club or that frathouse, we – very naturally, and very sensibly – tend to link the accusation with instances of rape being perpetrated by their members. But when the term is applied to something like gaming, there instantly seems to be a disconnect between the accusation and the reality, because barring conventions, tournaments etc, gaming lacks the physical spaces in which rape can actually take place. Which isn’t to say that sexual assault and rape never happen at cons or expos or tournaments; they do. But obviously, there’s a difference, because the primary mode of social interaction in gaming is digital – and how can you rape someone over the internet?

Which brings us back to the actual, proper definition of rape culture. Quoting from Fraternities and Collegiate Rape Culture: Why Are Some Fraternities More Dangerous Places For Women? by A. Ayres Boswell and Joan Z. Spade (my emphasis):

“Rape culture is a set of values and beliefs that provide an environment conducive to rape… The term applies to a generic culture surrounding and promoting rape, not the specific setting in which rape is likely to occur.“ 

In other words, rape culture refers neither to physical locations where rape is deemed likely to occur, does occur and/or has occurred, nor to the specific details of  particular rapes: rather, it refers to a culture – that is, a set of values, beliefs, rituals, social codes, language, laws and art – which can be said to promote sexual violence, and particularly sexual violence against women as perpetrated by straight men. Note that this argument neither automatically nor universally implies the existence of a direct causal link between specific cultural artifacts and incidences of rape (though this is certainly possible); nor does it contend that every participant in that culture is or must be a rapist. What it does describe is a culture where rape is trivialized, where both the abuse and sexual objectification of women is normalised, and where, as a result, the sexual abuse of women is more likely to happen. 

But – and I cannot state this emphatically enough – rape is not the sole expression of rape culture. The whole point of the term is that abuse of women doesn’t happen in a vacuum: other sexist, toxic social conditions have to be present first, and so long as these conditions remain unaltered, the abuse itself will continue. The fact that gaming exists largely outside physical spaces isn’t a get out of jail free card; it just means that in the case of digital expressions of rape culture, we have to get ourselves out of the mindset that rape is the only consequence that matters – or, worse still, that unless rape happens, the accusation of rape culture is somehow bunk. Culture is what informs our actions; it is not the actions themselves – which means that rape culture is perhaps best understood as the presence of an ongoing sexual threat. If someone wielding a gun threatens to shoot me unless I comply with their orders, I’m supremely unlikely to challenge them: they don’t have to shoot me in order to change my behaviour. In that sense, it doesn’t matter if they really planned to shoot me, or if the gun was even loaded. The point – the effect – is power and coercion, and only someone who was completely callous, stupid, oblivious or a combination of all three would argue that the threat of being shot – and the subsequent change to my behaviour – was meaningless unless I actually was shot. Similarly, if I’m threatened with rape and violence and silenced with gendered, sexualised slurs every time I disagree with male gamers on the internet, it doesn’t matter if they really plan to rape me, or if they’re even capable of doing so: as with the gun, the point – the effect – is power and coercion, and the logic which underlies their choice of threat. What they want is to shut me up by reminding me that rape happens, that it could and should happen to me because of what I’ve said. And when that is your go-to means of silencing women in a context where men are the majority, where the female form is routinely shown in attitudes of hypersexualisation, sexualised violence and submission, and where men are in majority control of that setting? That is rape culture. 

Which brings me to the attacks on Anita Sarkeesian.

Sarkeesian, for those who’ve never heard of her, runs a website called Feminist Frequency, where – among other things – she posts videos deconstructing and criticising the presence of sexist tropes in popular culture. Recently, she went on Kickstarter to garner funding for a new series of videos: Tropes vs Women in Video Games. It should tell you something significant about the popularity of this idea – and of Sarkeesian herself – that, having asked for a mere $6,000 in financing, she has, as of today – with four days left on the clock – been funded to the tune of $44,027 - more than seven times what she initially asked for. Here’s her kickstarter pitch:

I love playing video games but I’m regularly disappointed in the limited and limiting ways women are represented.  This video project will explore, analyze and deconstruct some of the most common tropes and stereotypes of female characters in games.  The series will highlight the larger recurring patterns and conventions used within the gaming industry rather than just focusing on the worst offenders.  I’m going to need your help to make it happen!

As a gamer, a pop culture critic and a fan, I’m always working to balance my enjoyment of media while simultaneously being critical of problematic gender representations. With my video web series Feminist Frequency,  I look at the way women are portrayed in mass media and the impact they have on our culture and society.

THE PROJECT

With your help, I’ll produce a 5-video series (now expanded to 12 videos) entitled Tropes vs Women in Video Games, exploring female character stereotypes throughout the history of the gaming industry.  This ambitious project will primarily focus on these reoccurring tropes:

  • Damsel in Distress - Video #1
  • The Fighting F#@k Toy - Video #2
  • The Sexy Sidekick - Video #3
  • The Sexy Villainess - Video #4
  • Background Decoration - Video #5

1st Set of Stretch Goals Achieved!

  • Voodoo Priestess/Tribal Sorceress - Video #6
  • Women as Reward - Video #7
  • Mrs. Male Character - Video #8
  • Unattractive Equals Evil - Video #9
  • Man with Boobs - Video #10
  • Positive Female Characters! - Video #11

2nd Stretch Goal Achieved!

  • Let’s Bump up the Production Quality!

3rd Set of Stretch Goals Achieved!

  • Tropes vs Women in Video Games Classroom Curriculum 
  • Video #12 – Top 10 Most Common Defenses of Sexism in Games

Each video will be between 10 and 20 minutes long and available online for free for everyone and anyone to watch, share and use.

Pretty benign language, yes? All she’s done is state what should be a fairly uncontroversial and obvious truth – that women are often presented badly in video games – and proposed to discuss this in detail.

And for this crime, she has been threatened with rape, with death and with violence, and had her Wikipedia page vandalised with images of graphic pornography.

This is what rape culture looks like in gaming: the use of misogyny to defend yourself against the accusation of misogyny. It’s like a woman telling an abusive partner that he’s abusive, and the partner being so angered by this that he punches her in the face. It’s doing exactly the thing you’re being accused of in response to that accusation while simultaneously trying to plead your innocence. And you know what makes this even worse? Sarkeesian hasn’t even started her videos yet. All she’s done is tried to get the funding for them – but even the prospect of a popular feminist deconstructing video game sexism has apparently been deemed so threatening, so emasculating and yet simultaneously so unnecessary by this particular misogynistic segment of the gaming population that, as one, they’ve risen up to threaten her with death, rape and physical violence.

And I can’t help but wonder: how many of Sarkeesian’s attackers use rape language when gaming? How many of them have inferred that because it’s apparently OK to talk about raping other players in-game, it’s OK to issue rape threats against women out of game? What are the odds that the men who vandalised her Wikipedia page with pornographic images – who decided that the quickest, easiest and most universally effective way to insult, demean and punish a female adversary was to hypersexualise her – are the same men arguing that the hypersexualisation of female characters in video games is normative, desirable, harmless? I’ll say it again: rape is not the sole expression of rape culture, and the fact that it exists foremost in gaming in nonphysical spaces – forums, online, in game, on the other end of the microphone, in game design itself – doesn’t make it any less toxic to women than the unsafe frat houses of Boswell and Spade’s study.

Critics within gaming seem to think that, unless we can prove definitively that rape culture acts like some sort of Hypno-Ray to turn otherwise normal men into rapists and sexual harassers, the whole idea of social settings that are inherently toxic to both female safety and healthy gender relations is bunk. But what else do you call it when gamers defend sexism in gaming by threatening a woman with rape? What else do you call it when a prominent figure in gaming says that “sexual harassment is part of the culture” and counts this as a defensible, necessary thing? What else do you call it when the combination of hypersexualisation and violence against women are so deeply embedded in gaming culture that a significant portion of developers and fans don’t see it as problematic? What else do you call it when the default form of insult used by and against male players is, as Penny Arcade’s Tycho once called it, ad mominem - that is, a way of insulting men by sexually impugning the women (mothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends) with whom they’re most closely associated? There’s a reason, after all, why such jokes are used primarily against men, and why their subjects are never fathers, brothers, husbands, boyfriends – what misogynistic male gamer would bother leveling sexually loaded insults at a female player’s mother when he could just level them at her? Show me a female gamer who’s played online or at tournaments, or even one who has simply participated actively in male-dominated gaming forums, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I will show you a female gamer who has at some point been called a bitch, a cunt,a slut or a whore by male players, or who has been crudely sexually propositioned by male players, or who has otherwise been sexually threatened or intimidated by male players, because this is how rape culture is primarily expressed in digital contexts: through the abusive language, gendered slurs, sexual threats, silencing and exclusion that are levelled at women generally, but which are specifically and intensely used to punish women like Sarkeesian, who dare to point out that this is what’s actually happening.

The core argument of rape culture isn’t that exposure to yet another instance of highly sexualised violence against women will turn every man who sees it into a rapist, and that therefore we should censor everything that even vaguely references women and violence together; the point is that in a healthy culture, there would be no need to censor such images, because participants in that culture would have enough respect for women to neither create nor demand them as mainstream in the first place. Because ultimately, the big objection to the charge of rape culture in gaming seems to boil down to fears about censorship: that by criticising creative output and language as being problematic, sexist and offensive, people like me are arguing for less art all together, when what we’re actually arguing for is more good art. Sexualised violence and the sexual objectification of women should be to gaming like The Human Centipede, a film which is horrific in absolutely every sense of the word, is to cinema: something that we all understand is vile, but where a desire to confront that vileness is the motive for watching – as opposed to a scenario where almost every film produced contains elements of The Human Centipede, and has done for so long that cinemagoers treat those elements as normative rather than vile, because they’ve become so commonplace that they can’t properly imagine films without them, reacting with bafflement and outrage and cries of ‘Censorship!’ every time some critic were to suggest that maybe, just maybe, not every film needs to feature graphic depictions of the forced ingestion of shit.

In other words: it is not censorship to suggest that gamers and game corporations should increase their collective respect for women, or to try and encourage the creation of a gaming culture that would nominally reflect such respect in both its output and its language.

Returning to the Boswell and Spade paper about rape culture in fraternities, it’s extremely important to note the differences between houses which were identified as ‘safe’ – that is, houses where women felt comfortable and which had lower levels of sexual assault – and those which were ‘unsafe’ – where women felt more vulnerable and which had higher levels of sexual assault. To quote:

“At high-risk houses, parties typically had skewed gender ratios, sometimes involving more men and other times involving more women. Gender segregation also was evident at these parties, with the men on one side of a room or in the bar drinking while women gathered in another area. Men treated women differently in the high-risk houses. The women’s bathrooms in the high-risk houses were filthy, including clogged toilets and vomit in the sinks… 

Men attending parties at high-risk houses treated women less respectfully, engaging in jokes, conversations, and behaviors that degraded women. Men made a display of assessing women’s bodies and rated them with thumbs up or thumbs down for the other men in the sight of the women. One man attending a party at a high-risk fraternity said to another, “Did you know that this week is Women’s Awareness Week? I guess that means we get to abuse them more this week.” Men behaved more crudely at parties at high-risk houses… It was rare to see a group of men and women together talking. Men were openly hostile, which made the high-risk parties seem almost threatening at times.”

In other words: the high-risk environments that were toxic for and dangerous to women were characterised by skewed gender ratios, poor respect for female spaces, offensive jokes made at the expense of women, the hypersexualisation of women themselves, and male hostility towards women – all of which is representative of rape culture. The fact that these behaviours are also representative of many digital spaces in gaming culture should not be any less alarming simply because they happen online: the misogyny, sexism and disrespect which underlie their usage is, at base, identical. Similarly, it’s worth noting that in another recent paper, Marriage Structure and Resistance to the Gender Revolution in the Workplace by Sreedhari D. Desai, Dolly Chugh and Arthur P. Brief, the authors found that employed men in traditional marriages – that is, marriages where the wife stayed home and the husband was designated as the sole breadwinner – tended, when compared to men in non-traditional marriages, to:

“(a) view the presence of women in the workplace unfavorably, (b) perceive that organizations with higher numbers of female employees are operating less smoothly, (c) find organizations with female leaders as relatively unattractive, and (d) deny, more frequently, qualified female employees opportunities for promotion.”

On the surface, this has nothing to do with rape culture – and yet I mention it by way of demonstrating that the way men treat and think of women in their private lives has a direct impact on how they treat them professionally and elsewhere. This doesn’t even have to be a conscious process – as the authors point out, the majority of such sexism was implicit rather than overt, meaning that the men didn’t even realise they were doing it – but either way, the impact on women remains the same. Given this evidence, then, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that male gamers who disrespect women online, who threaten women with rape, who call women bitches and sluts in anger, and who view both women in games and women gamers through the lens of hypersexualisation, will be much less likely to respect women generally and elsewhere. And that really is significant in terms of analysing the elusive physical, real-world implications of rape culture in gaming, because even though gaming itself is a primarily digital culture, gamers themselves still inhabit the real world, where they must necessarily interact with women in physical spaces and contexts that have nothing whatsoever to do with gaming.

Or, put it another way: parties, clubs and bars are universal spaces, places where people of all different cultures and subcultures meet – as, for that matter, are workplaces, offices, shops and streets. If a group of footballers sexually assault three women in a hotel, for instance, we aren’t wrong to ask about the influence of rape culture in football, even though the physical location of the assault is a public place with no specific ties to either the sport or its culture. But this is where things become tricky, because gamers – unlike footballers – aren’t celebrities; and unlike fratboys, their subcultural identity is unlikely to be mentioned in the event that they’re involved in an incident of sexism or sexual assault. And there’s the additional problem of making the nomenclature accurate: while it’s very easy to identify footballers and fratboys – do they belong to a club or frat house? then yes – it’s less easy to tell who, for the purpose of analysis, is a gamer, and if so, what their level of participation in gaming culture actually is. It’s exactly this sort of subtle point that so easily gets lost in public discourse, but which becomes exquisitely relevant when we start talking about preventative strategies and the real world consequences of rape culture in gaming. Saying gamers are is a vastly less accurate and more problematic notion than saying gaming is: even though there’s a massive intersection between the two concepts, the former is still a generalisation about types of people, while the latter is an assessment of culture that may or may not be relevant to individual participants in that culture. But still, I have to ask: if gaming itself lacks the physical spaces we usually associate with the most dramatic consequences of rape culture – but if this doesn’t invalidate the fact that many sexist male gamers are nonetheless learning from and actively participating in a rape culture they refuse to acknowledge as negative – then what happens when those men interact with women in other areas of life? On the basis of the evidence, they seem deeply unlikely to respect them, and however subconscious their sexism may be at such times, the fact that any physical consequences, such as abuse or assault, would happen outside of gaming-oriented contexts does not free gaming as a community – as a culture – of the responsibility to reinforce the fact that abusing women at any time is completely unacceptable.

So: gaming culture is – or at least, contains many problematic elements of – a rape culture. It is frequently hostile to women, toxic in terms of both the hypersexualised, violent content and the hypersexualised, violent language it uses to demean and belittle women. Even if, for whatever reason, you’d hesitate to use the term rape culture, it should nonetheless be apparent that gaming, en masse, has deep-seated problems with its treatment of women, and that this ought to be addressed. The horrific backlash against Anita Sarkeesian is unacceptable. The Hitman: Absolution trailer is unacceptable. Aris Bakhtianians’s comments are unacceptable. Saying so is not censorship: it is simply a call to treat women with respect. But so long as gamers refuse to acknowledge that rape culture is an issue which applies to gaming, the situation will not – cannot – get better.

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