Thoughts on “rape humor” and “rape culture.”

I’m probably going to stir up a shit storm with this entry, but, what the hell, It’s been awhile since I’ve done that.

I’ve been following the uproar over a Penny Arcade comic strip that appeared back in August with some interest. For those of you who are not fans of both video games and webcomics, Penny Arcade is a webcomic (natch) by and about gamers that is often crass, crude, offensive, and hugely popular with its target audience. In the 13 or so years it has been around it has grown into a new media phenomena that has spawned a twice-a-year video game convention that regularly sells out and a children’s charity that raises millions to provide sick kids in children’s hospitals toys and games.  Love it or hate it, what writer Jerry Holkins and illustrator Mike Krahulik have accomplished is damned impressive when most webcomic creators are lucky just to make a living at it.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Penny Arcade in part because I often don’t understand the joke being made — probably because I’m getting old and crotchety — but with as influential as it is I make a point to follow it just the same. Which means that on August 11th last year I saw the following strip, which I’m reproducing here for convenience:

Penny Arcade comic The Sixth Slave.

Copyright 2010 Penny Arcade, Inc. - Click to embiggen.

Being a big MMORPG player myself I easily “got” the joke in this strip, which is that the quests in many MMORPG games have arbitrary goals when you consider the gravity of the subject at hand. In this case the player has been tasked with freeing five slaves and, having done so, is callously apathetic about the plight of the sixth slave who is pleading for his freedom from what is a truly horrible situation. This is something I’ve actually thought about while playing World of Warcraft as there are a number of “free X number of slaves” type quests spread throughout the game. The practical reason why there are always a ton of slaves left in servitude when you finish such a quest is so that other players can also complete the quest at the same time without having to stand around and wait for the slaves you just freed to respawn, but the knowledge of the practical reason for it doesn’t stop you from recognizing how odd it is that you just saved X slaves while leaving the rest to their fate. As an aside, one of the goblin quests in the new expansion is quite similar, but involves you trying to douse the flames of fellow goblins that have been set ablaze. When you reach your goal there are still lots of goblins running around on fire screaming their little goblin lungs out, which is even more disturbing to ponder. Given that context, I found the above strip to be not only funny, but pretty spot on.

If you’ve not taken the time to read the strip then you may be wondering what the uproar might be about. The catalyst is in the second panel wherein the slave is explaining to the player his horrible situation with the following text: “Every morning, we are roused by savage blows. Every night, we are raped to sleep by Dickwolves.” This caught the attention of self-described feminist Shaker Milli A who proceeded the next day to write a post titled Rape is Hilarious, Part 53 in an Ongoing Series. I suggest reading the whole entry, but here’s a snippet:

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

But unlike Gabe killing Tycho so he doesn’t have to share a video game, a slave being raped is a real thing that happens in the world every day. I don’t find this “joke” funny because, unlike characters cartoonishly killing each other repeatedly and coming back to life, just as in video games, rape isn’t a central feature of (most) games—at least in the actual gameplay, totally aside from the language used by players.

The problem is, I just don’t find rape funny. Because rape survivors exist among us, and after being victimized by rapists, they are revictimized by a society that treats even real rape like a joke, forced to live in a culture that actually has a lot of rape jokes, including those about rape victims being actively denied justice for no other reason than because people don’t take rape seriously. I don’t find rape funny because rape victims are often doubted, mocked, and insulted openly.

I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in a family where humor was a big coping mechanism and I can’t recall ever being told that any particular subject was taboo. Which isn’t to say that there weren’t any jokes that ended up being awkward or cringe worthy, just that there wasn’t anything explicitly beyond making an attempt at humor about. If someone’s feelings were hurt by a joke we’d apologize for it as hurting feelings was never the intent. Given that you can probably see why I didn’t have a problem with the PA comic when I read it. That said, I can also understand why someone who has been a victim of rape would find the joke offensive. It is my understanding that many victims suffer from PTSD which can be triggered by being reminded of their ordeal.

The above two events are the beginning of a months-long back-and-forth between Penny Arcade and a number of feminists and rape survivors that is documented with links at Debacle Timeline – The Pratfall of Penny Arcade if you want to read up on all the gory details. In short, the guys at Penny Arcade found themselves being taken to task on Twitter, in emails, and on various blogs and forums over the rape reference in their comic. Their initial reaction was to be defensive and they put out a comic in their usual sarcastic style that apologized if anyone had been turned into a rapist by the previous comic. Needless to say, that didn’t help. Melissa McEwan at Shakesville, where the original complaint was posted, fired back with an entry titled Survivors Are So Sensitive:

Most critics of rape jokes object on one of two bases, neither of which are “your rape joke will directly cause someone to go out and commit a rape.” (That idea is absurd—which is why it’s so appealing to defenders of rape jokes to deliberately misrepresent critics’ arguments in such a fashion.) One criticism is that rape jokes are triggers for survivors of sexual violence (and/or attempted sexual violence). The other is that rape jokes contribute to a rape culture in which rape is normalized.

It’s that second objection that tends to get repackaged as “your rape joke will directly cause someone to go out and commit a rape,” which is, of course, a willful and dishonest simplification of a complex argument. The rape culture is a collection of narratives and beliefs that service the existence of endemic sexual violence in myriad ways, from overt exhortations to commit sexual violence to subtle discouragements against prosecution and conviction for crimes of sexual violence. The rape joke, by virtue of its ubiquity, prominently serves as a tool of normalization and diminishment.

No, one rape joke does not “cause” someone to go out and commit a rape. But a single rape joke does not exist in a void. It exists in a culture rife with jokes that treat as a punchline a heinous, terrifying crime that leaves most of its survivors forever changed in some material way. It exists in a culture in which millions and millions of women, men, and children will be victimized by perpetrators of sexual violence, many of them multiple times. It exists in a culture in which rape not being treated as seriously as it ought means that vanishingly few survivors of sexual violence see real justice, leaving their assaulters free to create even more survivors. It exists in a culture in which rape is not primarily committed by swarthy strangers lurking in dark alleyways and jumping out of bushes, but primarily by people one knows, who nonetheless fail, as a result of some combination of innate corruption and socialization in a culture that disdains consent and autonomy, to view their victims as human beings deserving of basic dignity.

That is the environment into which a rape joke is unleashed—and one cannot argue “it isn’t my rape joke that facilitates rape” any more than a single raindrop in an ocean could claim never to have drowned anyone.

I apologize for the length of that quote, but I thought it was important to provide as much context as I could. At this point I think it’s clear to see why this blew up into such a firestorm. The folks at Penny Arcade don’t consider the comic to be a rape joke because rape was never the point of the strip, it was just something horrible they tossed in to highlight the absurdity of the arbitrary goal of freeing only 5 slaves. Meanwhile, the other side — and this is entirely my impression here — seem to feel that any joke that has the word rape in it is a “rape joke” regardless of what the point of the joke happens to be.

As someone who has been guilty of being insensitive and offensive himself, my initial reaction is to come down on the side of the guys from Penny Arcade. While I can see how their reaction to the complaints was probably not in their best interests, I can also understand their defensiveness over it as I’ve been there myself. But I will also admit that this is the first time I’ve come across the concept of “rape culture” so I took the time to read what Melissa McEwan had to say about what rape culture is. It’s a long entry that appears to implicate pretty much every aspect of popular culture as being part of Rape Culture, but the part that’s most applicable to the discussion at hand is this:

Rape culture is rape jokes. Rape culture is rape jokes on t-shirts, rape jokes in college newspapers, rape jokes in soldiers’ home videos, rape jokes on the radio, rape jokes on news broadcasts, rape jokes in magazines, rape jokes in viral videos, rape jokes in promotions for children’s movies, rape jokes on Page Six (and again!), rape jokes on the funny pages, rape jokes on TV shows, rape jokes on the campaign trail, rape jokes on Halloween, rape jokes in online content by famous people, rape jokes in online content by non-famous people, rape jokes in headlines, rape jokes onstage at clubs, rape jokes in politics, rape jokes in one-woman shows, rape jokes in print campaigns, rape jokes in movies, rape jokes in cartoons, rape jokes in nightclubs, rape jokes on MTV, rape jokes on late-night chat shows, rape jokes in tattoos, rape jokes in stand-up comedy, rape jokes on websites, rape jokes at awards shows, rape jokes in online contests, rape jokes in movie trailers, rape jokes on the sides of buses, rape jokes on cultural institutions

Rape culture is people objecting to the detritus of the rape culture being called oversensitive, rather than people who perpetuate the rape culture being regarded as not sensitive enough.

In short, if you try to be funny about rape you’re a rape apologist. As far as Melissa is concerned, it is a taboo topic for joviality.

Now the reason this got me to thinking is because, as I said previously, I didn’t have a problem with the PA comic when I read it. It never occurred to me that the slave saying he’s “raped to sleep by Dickwolves” was meant to poke fun at being raped, and I still don’t think it was meant in that manner. I am painfully aware, on this issue as well as many other sensitive topics, that I am very much the “privileged norm” in terms of being a Middle Aged White Heterosexual Male which instantly makes my opinion on any of those topics subject to dismissal by default by some factions. I am also not a rape victim and even though I have people very close to me who are, that doesn’t mean I understand what it’s like to live through.

I find myself pausing to consider: Am I a rape apologist because I didn’t have a problem with the PA comic? I consider rape to be vile and repulsive. An act I have trouble fathoming how someone could commit on another human being. I believe rapists should be treated as the predators they are and punished accordingly. I have similar beliefs and feelings in regards to torture, murder, and any of a number of other heinous acts. Does the fact that I sometimes find amusement in jokes about torture or murder make me an apologist for those terrible crimes? If I am to accept the reasoning of Mellisa then it must be so.

So what, then, should I think of this bit by The Daily Show on the Republican attempt to redefine rape to eliminate taxpayer funded abortions:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Rape Victim Abortion Funding
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

Unlike the Penny Arcade comic, the folks at The Daily Show are clearly joking about rape in an effort to highlight the absurdity of the Republican legislation. You can clearly hear that more than one of the jokes makes the audience uneasy and they’re not sure if they should laugh or not.  Quite a few of the statements made by Kristen Schaal are easily way more offensive than the Penny Arcade comic, but does anyone really think she’s seriously advocating the position she’s parodying?

I also found this bit to be both funny and strong denunciation of the attempt to change the law regarding abortions for rape victims, but if I am to accept the logic being made against the folks at Penny Arcade then Jon Stewart is easily deserving of the same condemnation. More so, in fact, as rape was the punchline to many of the jokes whereas it was not in the PA strip. Yet there isn’t any word about the bit over at Shakesville. I suppose it’s possible it just hasn’t come to their attention yet.

In the end I will say that I think the guys at Penny Arcade did dig themselves a hole with their responses to their critics. While I understand their initial defensiveness,  they did move into the realm of complete assholeness by putting Go Team Dickwolves t-shirts and sports pennants in their store. It’s probably not the move I would have made, but then I’m not them. They have a lot they’ve built up over the years that could be affected negatively by such tactics, but that’s a price they appear willing to pay. That said, I did find the t-shirts funny.

As for the folks that are upset over the comic, while I can sympathize that it’s probably very painful to be reminded of what they’ve been through, I still come down on the side that no topic is taboo for attempts at humor. Perhaps that does make me a Rape Apologist, but given how expansive their definition of Rape Culture is, I don’t see how it’s possible not to be. That said, they have every right to be heard and their opinions considered. They have some valid points and I think we would all do well to stop and consider the topic. It would probably have helped their cause, however, if their initial reaction hadn’t been so hostile. I understand it’s a highly emotional topic, but that approach is just going to result in the targets being defensive as they were in this case. Clearly the PA guys were not advocating for rape and to insist otherwise does nothing to win them over to your side of the argument.

67 thoughts on “Thoughts on “rape humor” and “rape culture.”

  1. I’m with you on this one. I spent a few minutes reading the comment thread on shakesville, and much facepalming ensued. I think the major issue I’m seeing he is that the people at shakes are running way, way afoul of Hanlon’s razor. They’re completely stuck on the idea that the comic is treating rape as a laughing matter and failing to allow for the possibility–no, likelihood that mentioning rape in the comic was poorly thought out and in bad taste, but that that does not necessarily mean that the Penny Arcade guys axially do think rape is funny or meant to trivialize it.

    I am firmly of the opinion that most insensitive comments are caused by the commentator not thinking before they speak or not realizing ture offense they’re committing due to their privilege, not by their being OMG AN AGENT OF THE PATRIARCHY OUT TO TRIVIALIZE WOMEN’S ISSUES LET’S GET THE PITCHFORKS.

    I don’t know how longtime shakesville commentators manage not to give themselves an aneurysm from getting completely outraged about everything.

  2. Pingback: Rape: What’s the punchline? « Hello Universe, This Is Nessie

  3. Sorry. As a genuine rape survivor, I found that joke actually funny - in a social justice kind of way, considering what they were doing with it (i.e., using the rape bit in the middle to amplify the horror of slavery and the absurdity of abandoning so many to an awful fate). I’d ask the Shakes folks if I’m now a genuine Rape Apologist, but they’d probably do me violence.

    When rape is actually the punchline, then they have a better case. And yes, our culture sometimes takes it a little too lightly. But jokes do not a rape culture make. Glorification of sexual violence and the conservative idea that women are there to be controlled by men do far, far worse harm than a little inappropriate humor.

  4. Some people take things too far. I am a rape survivor as well. I am also an MMORPG player. I got the point of the strip that it was about only freeing 5 slaves, not about rape. (I have often felt bad for the those quest npcs that are left after completing a quest. LOL)

    We do live in a rape culture were no one is called out for shit…and these people are just taking it to the next level and calling out EVERYONE.

    You are not an apologist, Les. You took the joke as it was meant. There will always be those who will take it a bit farther and see shadows as demons. In a way sometimes these people are like the religious who see Jesus in burnt toast. Their vision is so colored by their own experiences that they can’t help but see what isn’t there.

  5. I appreciate the feedback. Because I am a member of the privileged norm, topics like this often give me pause for self-reflection. I don’t know if I’d be considered a feminist or not, but I consider myself to be very pro-woman which I attribute to having an exemplary mother who taught me to respect women.

    I can agree with the argument that rape is huge problem that too often isn’t taken seriously by The Powers That Be and I’m all for calling attention to that fact and working to change it. And I’m not trying to trivialize the concerns of the people who complained, but I think that this particular reaction does more harm to their cause than help. It does make them seem overly sensitive, whether that’s a fair assessment or not, when they refuse to consider the intent of the people they’re upset about.

    I’m not sure I’m getting my point across properly or not. I had intended to go more into my thoughts in the original entry, but I was up waaaay too late working on it as it was and I’m not entirely sure I can communicate what I am trying to say.

  6. I consider myself a strong supporter of women’s rights and feminist movements in general. But every time the issue of jokes comes up I get blasted by these feminist groups. It’s annoying because I’m on their side and all they are doing is alienating me.

    In other words, I agree. They have lost all ability to separate the joke from the use of the word rape. Likewise mental retardation groups are unable to separate the joke from the movie Tropic Thunder.

  7. First, I want to go on record as being firmly opposed to rape in any form. My sister was raped, and everytime I think about it, a murderous rage builds inside me. Call me a rape apologist and I will hurt you.

    But talking about rape, or referencing it in other contexts, does not signify approval or ignorance of the seriousness of rape. I think something that does do serious harm to the public awareness of rape is when the lines are blurred, and things that are clearly not rape are called rape.

    Taking the whining from Shakesville to heart is not advised. It is one of those zones where anything that offends a ridiculously insecure woman is branded as rape or patriarchy or whatever. Don’t watch Fox News for intelligent analysis, don’t read Shakesville for a reasoned response to anything. For a clearer picture of what goes on there, without having to wade through pages of someone’s persecution complex, read a few posts from this blog;

    http://thefirstchurchofmutterhals.blogspot.com/

  8. Whenever this kind of tempest erupts I think back to something George Carlin said: “People say rape is never funny. I say ‘Fuck you, it’s hilarious!'” Picture Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd.”

    George Carlin was not in any way an advocate for rape and in many of his shows it is clear that he was an immensely strong advocate for women’s rights, but he recognized what so many people seem to ignore: context matters. Even extremely sensitive subjects can be used humorously. And that visual is, to say the least, very humorous.

  9. I’m not a survivor but I’m a chick so it’s fair to guess that I might think about the consequences of becoming a victim at some point (more because I refuse to get a driver’s license and work nights than being a chick but whatever) more than some. THat came out all weird and presumptuous. Oh well, sod it.

    I think the uber-femis sort of missed the point in the same way that those who criticized the retard scene in Tropic Thunder missed the point. If you see what I mean. While the Penny Arcade dudes may not have meant rape as anything more than an arbitrary generic horror with which to make their point about the game, by picking something so truly horrific, they were able to make their point abut the game that much stronger. Because yeah, in context while you’re playing it’s a little bloody weird.

  10. Pingback: When is threatening someone with rape something the good guys do? | ***Dave Does the Blog

  11. Most of the big to-do wasn’t over the actual comic–people keep saying it is, because that’s the easy thing to latch onto. But actually the bulk of the people who got into it with the PA guys were reacting to the things they did after the comic.

    You’ll see it in the comments on any article about dickwolves, and it’s true for me, so I’ll say it here: I laughed at the comic. I didn’t laugh at what happened after. So please, quit making the “it’s just a comic” argument–almost everyone KNOWS that, and accepts it.

  12. I could give a first person account. Rape is not funny. But, like George Carlin said, rape jokes ARE funny. Making fun of rape is NOT funny. I am reminded of the little boy who cried, “Wolf!” You will recall that the villagers heard that so many times which were trivial or untrue that when the real thing happened no one came to help. I fear that Shakesville is crying “Wolf” too many times.

    Peace.

  13. JD, I don’t know if you took the time to read my entry completely, but I mention the comic primarily as being the catalyst. The bulk of my little essay addresses the entries at Shakesville that seem to be claiming that rape is a taboo subject only to be spoken of in the most serious and sober of ways.

    I do mention that I feel the PA folks dug themselves a hole in their response to the criticism, but I’m less concerned with a bunch of folks being pissed off at Penny Arcade because they decided to push buttons with tasteless merchandise than I am with the suggestion made by Mellisa that anyone who doesn’t immediately condemn any mention of rape in any humorous context is, ipso facto, a rape apologist.

  14. Speaking as a victim of molestation, I know how it feels when society keeps making offensive rape jokes and then acts like they’re OK, but I also think it depends on the motives behind them.

    Frankly I think both sides were both in the wrong and should have just apologized as soon as possible. The actual comic strip isn’t offensive, but the t-shirts were going a bit too far and didn’t help things further. They were idiots for being defensive and sarcastic about it. Frankly I’m surprised most of the comments here are against the uber-feminists. they were both wrong in my opinion.

  15. OK, I started writing a long post but I’m going to try and condense it.

    I wasn’t personally offended by the comic. My feelings, however, are not automatically the right feelings, and all sorts of variables can cause someone to feel differently.

    I understand that rape wasn’t the point of this joke. Two thoughts, on that. One–to some people, might this make its inclusion worse, or at least still bad, rather than forgivable? Rape then becomes something to throw into a comic in order to make it more edgy. It builds a distance between the thought of rape, and the reality that it is incredibly, incredibly common, and horrible. The fact that the point isn’t that ‘rape is funny’, but that ‘rape is some ugly concept that I can toss in there without thinking’ is separate, and not actively malicious, but still pretty ugly. Two–I agree, rape wasn’t the point! So why is its inclusion so vehemently defended? Why would it have been so horrible to admit “maybe we should have chosen a different example of abuse”?

    I also keep writing about Shakesville, or trying to, and I just can’t articulate my feelings on it acceptably. I read there regularly, but have posted six comments in two and a half years, or so. I am terrified of “not being sensitive enough”. I normally get where she’s coming from, though. Maybe she/they “look” for things to take issue with; but should it be so easy to find them? The world is an ugly place, the arts reflect that world in a way that might sometimes be upsetting, and might sometimes reflect an unfair thought process in the artist. . .is that always bad? I’m too conflicted to say anything definitive.

  16. I was once sexually assaulted in front of a group of people that included my brother, and he and everyone else in the room (guys) though it was the funniest fucking thing they ever saw. Whenever I see a bunch of guys talk about sexual violence like it’s some abstract philosophical event requiring their d00dly analysis, I want to say, JUST SHUT UP. You cannot know what it is.

  17. Good article. I think you hit on a point that everyone who I have read has missed out on. This is a series of increasing attacks on both sides. Comic comes out Shaksville overreacts, then Tycho & Gabe overreact. It just seems to be a never ending circle. I have read a lot of comments on other websites that the issue isn’t about the original comic. After checking out the time line. In the long run it is. The initial reaction to the original comic, was an unfair interpretation, and the PA guys reacted true to their form. Could this have been over long ago, yes. It continues only because people can’t give up and say it’s not worth it. Sorry for the long comment, again good article.

  18. The “Go Team Dickwolves” was obviously a mistake – the correct response was “We were highlighting the moral vaccuum computer games force players to live in to acheive an arbitary goal. Now grow up, go and do something useful, like attack politicians who want to remove support for rape victims.” (e.g. Sarah Palin, wanting to charge rape victims for the evidence kits, because it’s ‘medical’).

    The lunatics are what makes it easy for the Right to scare people about liberals. The feminist who described marriage as ‘legalised rape’ alienated all those women who read this and said “but I LIKE sex”.

  19. First, I want to thank you for a genuine and thoughtful take on the issue. I disagree with some of your points, which I’ll get to, but I very much appreciate your self-education where necessary and your candor.

    As has been stated numerous times, the original comic was occasion for a guest blog on Shakesville, but the real controversy didn’t occur until afterward. But the important point here is that there is a difference, and one that the Shakesville blogposts mark explicitly, between contributing to rape culture and being a rape apologist. The former is being part and parcel of the inertial action of our everyday culture, the latter is taking an active role in denying the validity or seriousness of the reality and ubiquity of rape. As regards the original comic, the critical blog only talked about rape culture, not rape apology, and it’s a mischaracterization of the argument to say that they stand in for each other.

    The thing about your emphasis on the original comic, though, is that it’s the most defensible and least attacked portion of this whole fiasco. We can argue about whether the rape joke in the original comic was all that bad or whether it was contributory to a rape culture or not, but no one, I mean no one, is arguing that it was actively harmful. That can’t be said for the ensuing reaction: the shirts and pennants, the twitter harassment of rape victims, the trauma-baiting of men and women who had the gall to say, “hey, I didn’t like this one thing and here’s why.” So at this point in the drama, full-throated defenses of the original comic don’t amount to much, because what followed has eclipsed that minor brouhaha by some margin.

    The biggest mischaracterization is that the critics were accusing Penny Arcade of being “pro-rape”. Only an idiot would think that, and since there are very few idiots in this story, that was never the criticism. (Similarly, you’ll note that PA’s apology comic addressed the “concern” that their comic might cause people to go out and rape; not only was that never the criticism, it’s so absurd as to be easily defended against, and the same is true for the “they called us pro-rape!” line.) Contributing to rape culture is not being pro-rape or a rape apologist. Contributing to rape culture is, like privilege, something we do unconsciously every day, because we are socialized to do so, until we make a conscious effort not to. And even then, we’ll still do it, because rape culture, like privilege, is incredibly powerful and is rooted in us at a deep level. That’s why this is hard work.

    This is getting long, so I’ll say a thing about the Daily Show bit and then let you have your comment section back. Over the course of 12 years or so, maybe more, TDS has built up a conventional framework whereby the correspondent says absurd, outrageous things, and Jon Stewart as the anchor tries, usually unsuccessfully, to reel them back to the sane mainland. It’s entirely true that a brand new viewer might not pick up on that and so might well be offended by the jokes, absurd and sarcastic though they are. But TDS is leveraging a long history of convention to enact this routine, and so they get a certain amount of credit from longtime viewers. In PA’s case, they threw in an arbitrary rape joke which was not integral to the main thrust of the strip. The difference in seriousness and credibility ought to be readily visible.

    I’ll conclude by saying I’ve been a PA fan for years and continue to be; I still read the strip and I’m still going to PAX. But they screwed this one up pretty badly.

  20. Interesting take on the whole mess. But on Melissa’s view on rape jokes, I’d like to direct your attention to the following passage:

    “If you’re going to make a joke about rape, it’s got to be funny to rape victims. And yeah, it’s possible. I got more approving emails about my “Soberest Fuckhole” trophy than any other graphic I’ve ever done. That’s some serious gallows humor, wickedly subversive, and it made a hell of a lot of survivors of sexual assault and their advocates laugh and cheer, because it played on all the stupid bullshit surrounding victim-blaming and rape. It’s a rape joke, but it didn’t treat rape like a joke. And that’s what most “rape jokes” do—including Seinfeld’s.”

    Link: http://shakesville.wordpress.com/2007/06/21/rape-is-hilarious-jerry-seinfeld-edition/

    Leaving aside the initial strip, do any of the responses made by the PA guys show they’re on the side of the victims? What message does a Team Dickwolves (essentially, let’s face it, Team Rapists) t-shirt send? One that is friendly to rape survivors? Having read an awful lot of responses from rape survivors, I think I can safely say, not really (with a few exceptions). It seems exceptionally mean-spirited, actually. And that is, I think, why so many people – including large numbers of PA fans – feel so betrayed and let down by the whole affair.

  21. I wrote a whole long thing and then some error killed the comment.

    I just want to let you know that among your regular readers are people who do not think that “feminists are just too sensitive” nor that it is impossible to multi-task. You might also be surprised to learn that Melissa has actually written about what situations can make jokes that include rape funny. And it isn’t “never.”

  22. The difference between the Daily show and PA is that the Daily show is firmly on the side of people who have been assaulted and points out how ludicrous it is to try to redefine assault just to promote your own conservative sense of safety.

    PA got criticised and responded to it badly. Being who they are does not make them immune from someone saying, “I wish you hadn’t said that.”

    PA decided the conversation was over the moment someone made a ‘joke’ about murdering Gabe’s child and wife, which was beyond the pale. Would you argue, by your standards, that suggesting the killing of an actual child is reasonable fodder for a joke? I’m not being facetious in any way, I want to know. Is there a line, at all? If anything is reasonable fodder for a joke, how come Gabe decided that the joking had to stop the moment it affected him in a deeply personal way?

    There’s a double standard here. Few things are going to affect a straight white guy as viscerally. Just because a minority were offended (and not all rape survivors were offended), some to the point of a physical reaction, does that mean it wouldn’t be ok/reasonable to try for a different joke the next time? Is your ability to joke about anything you please more important than, say, making someone cry? Or making a woman feel as if her child were unsafe.

    That stuff doesn’t happen in person in the same way and I know that people like Courtney Stanton have been getting hate mail and rape threats for expressing an opinion (which I was lead to believe was the perk of being from the USA, as PA is). I’d like to add that Courtney Stanton does have a link on her blog to “a funny joke about rape” and the reason that joke is funny is that it’s about a woman positing a situation in which she could not be raped, ever. The first thing she does is go for a jog at night.

  23. Les, I too thought the original comic furor was overblown and pointless, and I actually dislike Shakesville for other reasons, so I’m willing to take anything posted there with a critical eye.

    But the part you quoted of her rape culture post is a little disingenuous. She gave all those examples to show how ubiquitous jokes about rape are, but the point of the post wasn’t about how awful rape jokes are. As you noted, it was a long post; the bit about rape jokes is only a small portion of it, and the bulk of it is concerned with far more awful and directly harmful aspects of rape culture. Summing that one part of it up as “rape jokes = you’re a rape apologist” is really unfair.

    I mean, shouldn’t it give you pause that you’re more concerned about Melissa’s overstated views on rape jokes, rather than the fact that when criticized the PA guys directly taunted rape survivors and PTSD sufferers with their followups and merch? I don’t believe that every rape joke makes one a rape apologist and that rape jokes can never be funny, but this “Go Team Dickwolves” crap is both not-funny and just childishly vicious. And now the discourse on the post and these comments is, “The PA guys reacted badly, but those feminists are just too sensitive!” rather than, “Holy shit, they made a t-shirt to taunt rape victims?!”

    Doesn’t that give anyone else a big WTF moment?

  24. That’s interesting – if that’s the case, then this article’s whole premise is sort of compromised. Link?

  25. Thanks Les and ***Dave for your thoughtful words on rape humor. I am keeping both of your posts in mind next time someone brings it up.

    The idea that you can’t mention some things in a humorous context is, I think, itself anti-human. Some people just have to look at pain and suffering and laugh in its face. I routinely make fun of some of my most horrible experiences. Do they compare with rape? I can’t imagine how it would be possible to compare them, but it’s the only way I can cope sometimes. And no, I don’t expect everyone to take that approach. Everyone has their own way of coping and we need space to find our own way. What we can’t insist on is that everyone else cope the same we we do.

    This is very much the same discussion as that over “the N word” in Huckleberry Finn. Was the person using the word in the story portrayed as a hero? My reaction – as a teenager reading it for the first time – was a snort and thinking; “Jesus, what an asshole.” Was anyone ever inspired to racism by reading that book? Or did they read that passage and afterward find the word distasteful? That if they ever called anyone an “N” they would be like that unashamed racist in the story?

    Humor and serious exposition are both parts of human cognitive space. I just watched the Firefly episode; “Objects In Space” in which a bounty hunter threatens to rape Kaylee. He’s so cold and dispassionate in his question; “Have you ever been raped?” and he went thence from being only a dangerous intruder to a terrifying embodiment of human evil. It was as clear an exposition of rape as power and domination as I have ever seen, and deadly, frighteningly serious.

    That’s how context matters. It doesn’t just give meaning; it is meaning. Anyone can think of a dozen examples of things that have entirely different, even contradictory meanings depending on the context in which they are found. Does a joke minimize the suffering of the rape victim? The Penny Arcade comic did not, and by extension it in no way lessened the evil of the “Dick Wolves”. But jokes which imply that the victim deserved it, or was in some way asking for it or enjoyed it tell a different and inhuman story.

  26. We got a lot of really good responses last night which showed up in the queue (we moderate the first comments for spam control reasons after which your comments shouldn’t hit the queue unless it has a lot of links).

    I need to take the time and read through them thoroughly before replying, but I wanted to thank everyone who contributed as I am trying to develop an understanding of the topic at hand and your feedback is helpful. I do want to take a moment and say that any mischaracterization of the Shakesville entries was entirely unintentional. I’m stating things the way I see them and I admit that perhaps I’m not seeing them correctly. Which is why I wrote this entry in the first place.

  27. Pingback: Rape in the news « Decrepit Old Fool

  28. When I read the cartoon I wasn’t offended even though I’m a rape survivor too. There are a LOT of us out there, guys…far far too many. As a World of Warcraft addict I have not completed quests so I could save a few more of what was in trouble. Their arbitrary save numbers just annoy the me anyway.

    But…I notice the word “rape” tossed around a lot in game chat, so much that it loses it’s impact. I’m not sure it’s particularly good to see young males become desensitized to the word to the point where it is a common threat in the game world. As we know what you do in a game can spill over into real life and not always in a good way.

    I was going to go over and check out the comic up until you said that they have a Team Dickwolves T-shirt. Now I think they are ignorant asshats who deserve any shit that gets thrown at them. It’s amazing how people who are doing good are so willing to flush that down the toilet trying to defend the indefensible.
    How about as simple, “gee we didn’t thing it through..”? Nah, that’s not as much fun as making T-shirts and poking women with sharp sticks. I hope they wish they had just kept their damn mouths shut.

  29. I had a quick look at some of the information about this fiasco and found that the T-shirt is history. Hopefully it will stay that way.

    Thanks for this well-written thoughtful blog where you give your opinion, but are very open to the opinions of others as well. We learn from you and you learn from us. It’s a good trade. :)

  30. I’d like to note that I was reacting only to the first post that Les linked which was about the comic exclusively and not the aftermath. And what I saw in that comment thread was the Shakes-ites condemning the comic for saying that rape is funny and vociferously shouting down as a “mansplainer” anyone who tried to come in and say, “guys, that wasn’t actually the point of the comic…”

    It’s this absolute refusal to even entertain another perspective that bothers me. It turns PA and anyone who found the comic entertaining or actually got the joke into a “them”, who are horrible people who joke about rape and think it’s so hilarious and are now coming here and being condescending to us by saying that maybe our knee-jerk reaction was a little off… instead of fellow human beings who did something stupid, but are NOT total inhuman monsters, but people who can be reasoned with.

    I firmly believe that the only thing that will truly help in a situation like this is to make the person who made the insensitive comment aware of the implications of what they said in a way that doesn’t put them on the defensive, because if you do that they’ll be too busy being offended at how you called them a rapist-by-proxy to actually give any serious thought to their original comment.

    But getting yourself all worked up into a lather and blindly lashing out at people you see as “the enemy”, while it may feel satisfying, actually doesn’t help anything and in the long run will only result in more stress than any human being needs.

    Please note that I am NOT trying to lecture anyone or say that emotional reactions are wrong etc, etc. A lot of my perspective on things comes from my dealing with my own mental health issues, quite frankly.

    So, how ’bout those Steelers?

  31. I know it’s been pointed out in the comments here, but I feel the need to emphasise it:

    Melissa at Shakesville approves of rape jokes. But only where those jokes could be laughed at by rape survivors.

    The reason why the crew at Shakesville pointed out the rape joke over at Penny Arcade was because the situation was not far from reality. In fact, the only fantastic element of the joke was the creatures that perpetrate the rapes. The rest of it has happened in reality, multiple times. Just one example is the case of Elisabeth Fritzl, in 2008.

    That said, and with other commenters pointing out that your original post is wrong on the topic of Shakesville and rape jokes, isn’t it dishonest to have not edited to add this new information? Especially considering a fair few people don’t read comments and will leave with the impression that, as you said, the crew at Shakesville believe there are taboo topics in humour.

  32. Aren’t there other examples of things that we used to find OK to joke about or mention in jokes, just to give it a little more “Oomph!” which we’d never consider mentioning today?

    Rape culture, like privilege, is invisible unless you know about it (either because you got raped or you’re lacking privilege) or are looking for it. Some are going to see it earlier than others. And usually they’re going to be labeled over-sensitive, no matter what tone they’re using (and usually they won’t even be heard unless they are making a scene.) Because people being called out on their privilege usually are defensive.

  33. My initial reaction was much the same as yours, even with an awareness of rape culture and what it means in advance. I didn’t think this was something that contributed to it and I still don’t. It doesn’t condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage rape. Rape is portrayed as a negative, and the “hero” is shown to be a jerk for not caring about it.

    PA badly overreacted to the accusation. The correct response would have been “We apologize to anyone we offended.”. Simple and to the point. It probably would’ve ended the whole thing right then and there. Six words could have saved an awful lot of bandwidth.

    @Medivh: If you read the comments above yours, rape survivors did laugh at this joke. Melissa may not have, but she doesn’t speak for all rape survivors, no matter how much she may pretend otherwise.

  34. The critics weren’t concerned about being offended, though, they were concerned about being triggered due to PTSD (meaning, that portion of the joke causes flashbacks, etc.). “We apologize to anyone we offended”, in that context, is another sign of not getting it, and is therefore pretty condescending. Sort of “we’re sorry for hurting your precious feelings”.

  35. Lots of good comments here so I’m going to try and respond to as many as I can in this reply. That means it’s probably going to be lengthy.

    Jamie writes…

    I understand that rape wasn’t the point of this joke. Two thoughts, on that. One–to some people, might this make its inclusion worse, or at least still bad, rather than forgivable?

    It very well may, but I don’t see that as a reason not to use it. Humor is very subjective and what is funny to one person is a tragedy to another. The fact that some people may have a problem with its inclusion is not an argument against using it.

    Rape then becomes something to throw into a comic in order to make it more edgy. It builds a distance between the thought of rape, and the reality that it is incredibly, incredibly common, and horrible.

    I’m not sure I agree with either of those statements. The Penny Arcade guys don’t strike me as the sort of people who sit around worrying about whether or not their comic is edgy enough. They pretty much do their thing and post the results.

    As for it building a distance, I don’t think that’s true either. My appreciation for how common and how horrible rape is hasn’t been reduced by exposure to rape jokes. It hasn’t made rape more tolerable in my mind nor has it diminished my concern for the victims. The whole argument that rape jokes somehow normalize rape is dubious as far as I’m concerned.

    And, again, the fact that it is both common and horrible isn’t an argument against including it in a joke. Murder, torture, psychological abuse, etc. are also very common and very horrible and yet folks joke about those all the time.

    Two–I agree, rape wasn’t the point! So why is its inclusion so vehemently defended? Why would it have been so horrible to admit “maybe we should have chosen a different example of abuse”?

    I’m defending it because I don’t see any reason it should be taboo compared to any other common and horrible thing that could have been used in its place. I’m open to an explanation as to why rape in that context is out of line compared to, say, being waterboarded to sleep every night.

    Maybe she/they “look” for things to take issue with; but should it be so easy to find them? The world is an ugly place, the arts reflect that world in a way that might sometimes be upsetting, and might sometimes reflect an unfair thought process in the artist. . .is that always bad? I’m too conflicted to say anything definitive.

    The world indeed can be an ugly place, how is that an argument for glossing over the ugliness by ignoring it? Is it bad that people get upset at an artist? I don’t think so, but that doesn’t mean the artist is in the wrong either.

    I admit that my knowledge of what is art is hardly refined, but I’ve been told that good art challenges people’s preconceptions and makes people feel emotion. No one ever said that emotion had to be positive.

    Errant writes…

    But the important point here is that there is a difference, and one that the Shakesville blogposts mark explicitly, between contributing to rape culture and being a rape apologist. The former is being part and parcel of the inertial action of our everyday culture, the latter is taking an active role in denying the validity or seriousness of the reality and ubiquity of rape. As regards the original comic, the critical blog only talked about rape culture, not rape apology, and it’s a mischaracterization of the argument to say that they stand in for each other.

    It is not my intent to mischaracterize the argument, but I must say that, based on the entries I read at Shakesville, that’s the impression I was left with. Now I admit that I didn’t read every single entry at Shakesville, but I did read all the ones that were pointed to (e.g. Rape Culture 101, etc.) as being necessary for a foundation of understanding.

    My impression may be wrong, but that’s the impression I was left with.

    The thing about your emphasis on the original comic, though, is that it’s the most defensible and least attacked portion of this whole fiasco. We can argue about whether the rape joke in the original comic was all that bad or whether it was contributory to a rape culture or not, but no one, I mean no one, is arguing that it was actively harmful. That can’t be said for the ensuing reaction: the shirts and pennants, the twitter harassment of rape victims, the trauma-baiting of men and women who had the gall to say, “hey, I didn’t like this one thing and here’s why.” So at this point in the drama, full-throated defenses of the original comic don’t amount to much, because what followed has eclipsed that minor brouhaha by some margin.

    What can I say? People are assholes. If you decide to engage with assholes you have to expect to be shit upon. I bet if you were to try and tell rabid Justin Bieber fans what you don’t like about him you’d probably get a similar response. See any Team Edward versus Team Jacob flame war for plenty of examples.

    Should people be like that? Doesn’t matter. That’s how people are. There’s nothing wrong with you trying to show them the error of their ways, but that doesn’t mean you should expect everyone involved to be rational and respectful in their replies because people generally aren’t either of those things. In short, if you don’t have a thick skin then perhaps it’s best not to engage them.

    The biggest mischaracterization is that the critics were accusing Penny Arcade of being “pro-rape”. Only an idiot would think that, and since there are very few idiots in this story, that was never the criticism.

    Again all I can say is that is the impression I was left with after reading several articles on the topic at Shakesville. Not specifically that the PA guys were being accused of being pro-rape, but that anyone who doesn’t immediately condemn rape being mention in anything but the most somber and horrified of tones is pro-rape.

    Again I admit my impression may very well be wrong, but that’s what I came away with.

    I do appreciate your defining for me the difference between PA and The Daily Show. Though I would argue that it’s not like PA is new to the scene either or that they haven’t demonstrated a willingness to be offensive on various subjects in the past.

    Jo writes…

    (Quoting a post from Melissa) “If you’re going to make a joke about rape, it’s got to be funny to rape victims… “

    I have to ask why it has to be funny to rape victims? It’d be nice, sure, but it sounds to me like she wants to define what is acceptable humor and what is not. I don’t agree with that approach.

    Leaving aside the initial strip, do any of the responses made by the PA guys show they’re on the side of the victims? What message does a Team Dickwolves (essentially, let’s face it, Team Rapists) t-shirt send? One that is friendly to rape survivors? Having read an awful lot of responses from rape survivors, I think I can safely say, not really (with a few exceptions). It seems exceptionally mean-spirited, actually. And that is, I think, why so many people – including large numbers of PA fans – feel so betrayed and let down by the whole affair.

    I agree with everything you say above. It does send a bad message and it was exceptionally mean-spirited, but then this is the PA guys we’re talking about. I wouldn’t have thought this would come as much of a surprise given their past. I mean, they have a character named “Fruit Fucker” who rapes fruit. I know I cringed the first time I saw it.

    My point in writing this entry wasn’t to defend the PA guys as not being assholes for their response. I am, as I said in the entry, a member of the “Privileged Norm” in that I am a White Middle Aged Male Heterosexual. Reading up on the whole brouhaha prompted me to self-reflect. I don’t consider myself to be pro-rape or contributing to the “rape culture” but at the same time I don’t have a problem with people trying to make light of a serious subject such as rape.

    By the arguments put forth by the Shakesville folks, at least as I saw them, I am definitely contributing to the rape culture and may very well be pro-rape as a result.

    TheDeviantE writes…

    I wrote a whole long thing and then some error killed the comment.

    My apologies. WordPress has its faults.

    I just want to let you know that among your regular readers are people who do not think that “feminists are just too sensitive” nor that it is impossible to multi-task. You might also be surprised to learn that Melissa has actually written about what situations can make jokes that include rape funny. And it isn’t “never.”

    I don’t think I’ve ever said that “feminists are just too sensitive.” I did say that the folks at Shakesville responded in a way that may have made them seem to be too sensitive. Not sure where the multitask part fits in.

    Jo quoted some of what Melissa had to say on when and how rape jokes are appropriate. I’ll just go on record as saying that I disagree with her requirements. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t good reasons to consider how your joke is going to be received, but to say that a joke about a sensitive topic has to appeal to people directly affected by that topic is simply wrong in my mind.

    I do find it interesting that so many people think that the PA guys should be responsible for how others took their attempt at humor, but no one seems to think the same rules apply to how the folks objecting to it went about doing so.

    Iany writes…

    The difference between the Daily show and PA is that the Daily show is firmly on the side of people who have been assaulted and points out how ludicrous it is to try to redefine assault just to promote your own conservative sense of safety.

    Fair enough.

    PA got criticised and responded to it badly. Being who they are does not make them immune from someone saying, “I wish you hadn’t said that.”

    Never said it did. At the same time, saying “I wish you hadn’t said that” doesn’t make you immune from being criticized for saying that. You have every right to say what you want to say, but then so does everyone else. And when you’re dealing with assholes…

    PA decided the conversation was over the moment someone made a ‘joke’ about murdering Gabe’s child and wife, which was beyond the pale. Would you argue, by your standards, that suggesting the killing of an actual child is reasonable fodder for a joke? I’m not being facetious in any way, I want to know. Is there a line, at all? If anything is reasonable fodder for a joke, how come Gabe decided that the joking had to stop the moment it affected him in a deeply personal way?

    Just as there is a difference between PA’s strip and The Daily Show’s bit, there’s a difference between the “rape joke” PA made and the “joke” someone tweeted about killing his wife and child. The way it was phrased sounded more like an incitement to violence whereas the PA strip wasn’t anything like that. The same is true of the PA fans that were taunting the Shakesville folks by telling them they wish they’d get raped again.

    Is there anything I’d consider over the line? I can’t think of anything off top of my head, but as I said I grew up in a house where humor was a primary defense against tragedy. At my grandfather’s funeral my grandmother made jokes about him in his casket.

    I can remember on September 11th within a couple of hours of the fall of the buildings someone had posted a pic of the second plane hitting the towers with an overlay that made it look like it was a screenshot from the Counter-Strike video game with the words TERRORISTS WIN as though it was the end of a round of the game. Inappropriate? Many would say so, but many fans of the game thought otherwise.

    There’s a double standard here. Few things are going to affect a straight white guy as viscerally. Just because a minority were offended (and not all rape survivors were offended), some to the point of a physical reaction, does that mean it wouldn’t be ok/reasonable to try for a different joke the next time?

    Never said it wouldn’t be OK or reasonable, if that’s what they want to do. Again, you have every right to tell them you’re not happy with the joke. They have every right to tell you to piss off.

    Is your ability to joke about anything you please more important than, say, making someone cry? Or making a woman feel as if her child were unsafe.

    I don’t think it’s more or less important. I try not to be unnecessarily cruel in my humor, but I’ve said some things on here that I know have hurt the feelings of people I don’t directly know. There are even some folks whose feelings I felt deserved to be hurt. Is it wrong that I hurt those feelings? I suppose that depends on how much you agree with what it was that I said.

    Again, I think the intent should be considered. In the PA case it’s pretty clear they weren’t out to hurt anyone’s feelings or make anyone cry. Clearly the reaction they got put them on the defensive and they lashed out in a stupid way that just got them into more hot water. They went from not intending to hurt anyone’s feelings straight into full-on intent to hurt feelings. I’m not saying they’re right for having done so, but I don’t think they’re entirely to blame for it either.

    When people attribute thoughts and motivations to me that are not true I tend to get pretty defensive as well.

    That stuff doesn’t happen in person in the same way and I know that people like Courtney Stanton have been getting hate mail and rape threats for expressing an opinion (which I was lead to believe was the perk of being from the USA, as PA is).

    Anonymity does have its dark side as it provides cover for the inner-asshole to surface. That’s part of the reason I blog under my real name. I get hate mail and threats on a regular basis for the opinions I express. That comes with the territory of posting one’s opinions publicly. You either develop a thick skin or you stick to safe topics or you give up posting opinions publicly.

    Having the right to an opinion doesn’t make you immune from assholes. It would be nice if everyone could engage in dispassionate, reasonable discourse, but human nature isn’t like that.

    Sas writes…

    But the part you quoted of her rape culture post is a little disingenuous. She gave all those examples to show how ubiquitous jokes about rape are, but the point of the post wasn’t about how awful rape jokes are. As you noted, it was a long post; the bit about rape jokes is only a small portion of it, and the bulk of it is concerned with far more awful and directly harmful aspects of rape culture. Summing that one part of it up as “rape jokes = you’re a rape apologist” is really unfair.

    I concede it may be unfair. Given the length of the entry it was difficult to determine what would be most relevant to the point I was trying to make without copying and pasting the whole entry, which is why I encouraged folks to go read the whole thing.

    That said, the rape jokes = you’re a rape apologist is the impression I honestly came away with after reading the entire entry. Again, my impression may be wrong, but that was the impression I got.

    I mean, shouldn’t it give you pause that you’re more concerned about Melissa’s overstated views on rape jokes, rather than the fact that when criticized the PA guys directly taunted rape survivors and PTSD sufferers with their followups and merch?

    I don’t know, should it? Perhaps it’s my innate cynicism, but I wasn’t at all surprised by their reaction. It’s not what I would’ve done, but then I don’t want to be THAT much of an asshole. Some people seem perfectly happy being that much of an asshole. I try not to hang out with too many of them.

    I don’t believe that every rape joke makes one a rape apologist and that rape jokes can never be funny, but this “Go Team Dickwolves” crap is both not-funny and just childishly vicious. And now the discourse on the post and these comments is, “The PA guys reacted badly, but those feminists are just too sensitive!” rather than, “Holy shit, they made a t-shirt to taunt rape victims?!”

    Again I never said that they were too sensitive, I said their initial reaction may have made them seem too sensitive.

    I can only tell you what I would do if I found myself in a situation where coming across certain words or jokes triggered major emotional issues and was confronted by something that upset me. I’d probably work to avoid that situation in the future. Perhaps I’d write about it, but I’d just make sure not to go back.

    There’s a reason I don’t spend a lot of time on Far-Right websites or listening to Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh. It generates too much stress. It’s bad enough I have to read about them in other media, the last thing I want to do is expose myself directly. That said, I still do go to their sites on occasion when I need something to write about, but as a rule I tend to avoid it.

    Now I realize my blood pressure problem isn’t anything remotely as traumatic as being a rape victim, but I’d take the same approach if I were a rape victim. I think it’s great that the Shakesville site exists to give people who are victims of rape a safe place to commune and commiserate, but I don’t believe that means every site on the net should do the same.

    JaneGael writes…

    But…I notice the word “rape” tossed around a lot in game chat, so much that it loses it’s impact. I’m not sure it’s particularly good to see young males become desensitized to the word to the point where it is a common threat in the game world. As we know what you do in a game can spill over into real life and not always in a good way.

    I don’t have a problem with discouraging the use of rape in such a way just as I don’t have a problem with discouraging the use of gay in a similar context, but I’m not convinced that simply using the word desensitizes anyone from the horror of what it represents or that it’ll spill over into real life. In short, I don’t think saying “we were raped” or “we raped those guys” is going to make some young male go out and rape someone in real life.

    Thanks for this well-written thoughtful blog where you give your opinion, but are very open to the opinions of others as well. We learn from you and you learn from us. It’s a good trade.

    No problem. It’s as much for my benefit as yours. I appreciate all the feedback I’ve gotten and the chance to explore the topic to see if I can get my head around it.

    Cassie writes…

    It’s this absolute refusal to even entertain another perspective that bothers me. It turns PA and anyone who found the comic entertaining or actually got the joke into a “them”, who are horrible people who joke about rape and think it’s so hilarious and are now coming here and being condescending to us by saying that maybe our knee-jerk reaction was a little off… instead of fellow human beings who did something stupid, but are NOT total inhuman monsters, but people who can be reasoned with.

    I think you may have articulated what I’ve been trying, and failing, to get to. While I think what the PA guys did in the aftermath was pretty stupid for people with so much to lose, I don’t feel the Shakesville folks are completely blameless for the events that have taken place.

    It doesn’t help that Melissa at Shakesville has explicitly stated an “Us vs Them” attitude. She wrote…

    It’s not good enough to say, “Lots of people can laugh at that without hurting anybody,” not when laughing along conveys approval of the rape culture, whose vales are embraced by the people who do hurt other people. They aren’t formed and they don’t exist in a void—and the only responsible position, if you’re not inclined to be their ally, is to have a zero tolerance policy on rape as entertainment.

    Otherwise, you’re just creating opportunities for Bad Guys to have their fucked-up values reaffirmed and for Nice Guys to communicate silent approval.

    There is no neutral in the rape culture.

    So you’re either with them or against them. Just as it doesn’t do the Penny Arcade people any good to alienate their audience, it doesn’t do the Shakesville folks any good to alienate potential allies.

    Medivh writes…

    Melissa at Shakesville approves of rape jokes. But only where those jokes could be laughed at by rape survivors.

    As a criteria for Melissa that’s perfectly OK. Her insistence that it must apply to everyone is what I disagree with. She claims that she isn’t trying to tell other folks what to find funny, but that’s exactly what she is doing with statements like that.

    The reason why the crew at Shakesville pointed out the rape joke over at Penny Arcade was because the situation was not far from reality. In fact, the only fantastic element of the joke was the creatures that perpetrate the rapes. The rest of it has happened in reality, multiple times. Just one example is the case of Elisabeth Fritzl, in 2008.

    So it’s only allowed if it rarely or never happens in reality? Seems an arbitrary standard to me.

    That said, and with other commenters pointing out that your original post is wrong on the topic of Shakesville and rape jokes, isn’t it dishonest to have not edited to add this new information? Especially considering a fair few people don’t read comments and will leave with the impression that, as you said, the crew at Shakesville believe there are taboo topics in humour.

    I’m not convinced that my original subject is incorrect. Apparently the folks at Shakesville do believe that certain topics are taboo unless they meet some very stringent and arbitrary requirements. I suppose I could edit the original topic to say that much.

    G writes…

    Aren’t there other examples of things that we used to find OK to joke about or mention in jokes, just to give it a little more “Oomph!” which we’d never consider mentioning today?

    There are certainly things that are frowned upon by a lot of folks though I think a lot of that has more to do with the intent of the joke, such as Polack jokes, than the words themselves.

    Rape culture, like privilege, is invisible unless you know about it (either because you got raped or you’re lacking privilege) or are looking for it. Some are going to see it earlier than others. And usually they’re going to be labeled over-sensitive, no matter what tone they’re using (and usually they won’t even be heard unless they are making a scene.) Because people being called out on their privilege usually are defensive.

    I suppose that depends on the person and the way in which they are called out. I admit I’m part of the Privileged Norm and I try to be aware of it, but being told I’m a rape apologist when I’m very much anti-rape is not the way to win me over.

    OK, this is already ridiculously long and there’s probably already new replies I’m not seeing as a result, but I’m going to end this here for now. Hopefully it helps to explain where I’m coming from.

  36. Melissa at Shakesville approves of rape jokes. But only where those jokes could be laughed at by rape survivors.

    As a criteria for Melissa that’s perfectly OK. Her insistence that it must apply to everyone is what I disagree with. She claims that she isn’t trying to tell other folks what to find funny, but that’s exactly what she is doing with statements like that.

    One of the things about Shakesville that I think you’ve misread is that it’s a self-billed advanced feminist space. Most of what Melissa does is a) provide a safe space on the internet for survivors of many stripes of abuse and b) preach to the choir. And while there have been people who’ve changed their minds upon reading Shakesville (I’m one of them!), that’s not the intent.

    Thus, she’s talking to a wholly feminist audience. Thus, she’s coming to the conclusion that to properly be a feminist, finding humour in rape jokes that re-victimise victims is off the cards. More on that below.

    This isn’t to say that she demands compliance from her readers, either. Feminism isn’t a monolith. Nor does she expect a non-ally like yourself to follow her code of conduct. And while you might think that you’re a potential ally, it’s a term that has a different meaning in feminist activism. I’m standing here, arguing to change your mind to a more feminist point of view, but I’m not an ally: I chicken out most of the time, mainly conducting myself through the internet in such arguments. I am trying to be an ally, but I’m going to have to step up more in the offline world before I even think about applying that term to myself. To get to “potential ally”, you would already have to be feminist.

    The reason why the crew at Shakesville pointed out the rape joke over at Penny Arcade was because the situation was not far from reality. In fact, the only fantastic element of the joke was the creatures that perpetrate the rapes. The rest of it has happened in reality, multiple times. Just one example is the case of Elisabeth Fritzl, in 2008.

    So it’s only allowed if it rarely or never happens in reality? Seems an arbitrary standard to me.

    No, if it happens in reality, and is funny to victims, it’s still on the table. The reason I bring up reality here is because the dickwolves mindfart isn’t particularly fantastic.

    Far from arbitrary, really. Would you think the same standard is arbitrary when applied to, say, childhood bullying? Would you think that jokes about kids being beaten were maybe in poor taste unless the kids who’ve been the victims of those injuries could laugh at the same jokes?

    In reality, it’s a standard that allows victims to be full members of society without being constantly told that they’re subhuman. Rape jokes that victims can’t laugh at re-victimise people. Is that arbitrary?

  37. Medivh, I appreciate your explanation for my confusion about the nature of Shakesville. That said, I have to admit that I find the attitude it suggest very alienating for a cause that I am in favor of. In particular this:

    And while you might think that you’re a potential ally, it’s a term that has a different meaning in feminist activism. I’m standing here, arguing to change your mind to a more feminist point of view, but I’m not an ally: I chicken out most of the time, mainly conducting myself through the internet in such arguments. I am trying to be an ally, but I’m going to have to step up more in the offline world before I even think about applying that term to myself. To get to “potential ally”, you would already have to be feminist.

    Does their cause no good in my mind. The fact that you could be arguing on their behalf and still not considered an ally seems counter-intuitive to me. It promotes an Us vs Them mindset, but then that’s not surprising given Melissa has pretty much endorsed that approach.

    No, if it happens in reality, and is funny to victims, it’s still on the table. The reason I bring up reality here is because the dickwolves mindfart isn’t particularly fantastic.

    The problem with that criteria is the fact that humor is subjective. We’ve already heard from several rape survivors in this very thread that said they found the strip funny. Which begs the question of why Melissa thinks she can decide for others what is and isn’t an acceptable “rape joke.” Based on her feelings it’s not funny to her, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t funny to others who have been through similar tragedy.

    Far from arbitrary, really. Would you think the same standard is arbitrary when applied to, say, childhood bullying? Would you think that jokes about kids being beaten were maybe in poor taste unless the kids who’ve been the victims of those injuries could laugh at the same jokes?

    Believe it or not, I was a victim of childhood bullying when I was younger so now you’re in territory I have had considerable experience with. Yet I don’t throw a shit fit over every joke about childhood beatings that I don’t find particularly humorous.

    As for the jokes being in poor taste, that is, again, a rather subjective question. I’ll be the first to admit that the PA joke was probably in poor taste, but then a lot of the jokes at PA are in poor taste (see previous comments on Fruit Fucker). I think the Jackass TV show and movies are the epitome of stupidity and poor taste so I don’t watch them. I suggest the same course of action to anyone who finds Penny Arcade to be in poor taste. Bitch about them if you must, but don’t set yourself up as the arbiter of acceptable humor in doing so.

    In reality, it’s a standard that allows victims to be full members of society without being constantly told that they’re subhuman. Rape jokes that victims can’t laugh at re-victimise people. Is that arbitrary?

    I disagree with the claim that rape jokes that aren’t funny to rape victims inherently tell them they’re subhuman. Certainly there are jokes, rape or otherwise, of which the intent is to communicate that message, but I don’t think tastelessness by itself does that.

    And again I have to point out that not all rape victims had a problem with the PA strip so how do you determine whether it crossed the line? What if the consensus among rape victims is that a particular rape joke is one that rape victims can laugh at, but some still feel re-victimized by it? Are those dissenters wrong? Does there have to be some sort of rape victim consensus for it to be OK? Or is it one of those I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it things?

  38. Regarding my previous question about whether the premise of this post is supported by Melissa M’s statements elsewhere… I got interested at that point and read that Shakesville post about rape culture in more detail, and have been thinking about it, and I think you’ve misunderstood the logical progression. Melissa McEwan says:

    Rape culture is the insistence on trying to distinguish between different kinds of rape via the use of terms like “gray rape” or “date rape.”

    It strikes me that that’s the relevant part – because it pretty clearly suggests that in this model Schaal’s routine on The Daily Show was a joke the punchline of which was not rape but rape culture, as defined by Shakesville as something which seeks to find reasons not to identify certain things as “proper” rape.

    Which doesn’t mean that the routine wouldn’t be potentially upsetting for a rape survivor, or for that matter that it wouldn’t be potentially triggering, which is a different thing. But it doesn’t really make logical sense to suggest hypocrisy or inconsistency for not speaking out against it (even assuming she saw it).

    So, yes. When you say:

    Again all I can say is that is the impression I was left with after reading several articles on the topic at Shakesville. Not specifically that the PA guys were being accused of being pro-rape, but that anyone who doesn’t immediately condemn rape being mention in anything but the most somber and horrified of tones is pro-rape.

    I think it’s admirable that you then acknowledge that your impression may be wrong. I think it is wrong – in fact, I think it’s completely wrong, and there it’s completely wrong to say that the argument from Shakesville was ever saying that Krahulik or Holkins were “pro-rape”, in either the strong or the weak sense.

  39. Yes, there is a difference between being “pro rape” and saying/doing things which support the rape culture, which plenty of well-intentioned people do all the time (Melissa herself has said she’s caught herself participating). The fact that you think the examples she gives constitute ‘almost everything’ makes that participation extremely easy to do, without any malice or “being a bad person” (or whatever it is that offends you about the idea) attached to it. I do it when I think of predatory sexual behavior as something that makes for interesting fiction. I find it personally excusable as I draw the line extremely thick, and make sure the people that I engage with draw a similar line. I remain critical of people who disrespect real life boundaries, openly so. However, many people would not agree that this makes my interest excusable, and I find that opinion entirely valid, probably more valid than my own. I can acknowledge that it’s a form of privilege that allows me not to give a shit about implications and the like.

    In that case I think maybe it is a matter of ‘being a bad person’, and I could have done to think of more mild examples, but whatever. . .the point is that I don’t believe this makes me ‘pro rape’ and, as I mention the distinction between fantasy and reality, I don’t think many people would accuse me of that. But they would accuse me of contributing to rape culture (a variation of ‘women like it’, in this case), and they’d be right in doing so.

    It’s also disingenuous to frame the argument about the initial comic as between people who are ‘offended’ and people who are not. The biggest criticism of it was not that it was offensive, but that it was potentially triggering, which is not the same as simply finding something distasteful.

    I specifically read a Shakesville comment in the last open thread where a poster shared that the comic had contributed to a severe mental health episode for her; it was not the only thing involved, but it was triggering for her because she had been raped while asleep–so the phrase “raped to sleep” was specifically triggering to her. As in, flashbacks and visceral adrenaline-dump terror–not “oh, my precious feelings!”.

    So I think what makes the joke offensive is the dismissal of that experience, and similar experiences. The dismissal of the fact that someone can, without any opportunity for preparation, happen upon the phrase ‘raped to sleep’ in a place where they’re normally quite happy with the content, and actually be hurt, is offensive. The fact that Mike later mocked trigger warnings makes it still worse. “Ha-ha, I ruined your day because I just had to make an insensitive joke!”

    Being offended is, to a degree, a voluntary thing–or, at least, responding to the feeling of offense is. Being triggered, contrarily, is entirely involuntary–it doesn’t make the sufferer weak any more than someone with PTSD from a war situation is weak (and I’ve never seen anyone claim that).

  40. I have to admit that I find the attitude it suggest very alienating for a cause that I am in favor of. In particular this:

    And while you might think that you’re a potential ally, it’s a term that has a different meaning in feminist activism. I’m standing here, arguing to change your mind to a more feminist point of view, but I’m not an ally: I chicken out most of the time, mainly conducting myself through the internet in such arguments. I am trying to be an ally, but I’m going to have to step up more in the offline world before I even think about applying that term to myself. To get to “potential ally”, you would already have to be feminist.

    Does their cause no good in my mind. The fact that you could be arguing on their behalf and still not considered an ally seems counter-intuitive to me. It promotes an Us vs Them mindset, but then that’s not surprising given Melissa has pretty much endorsed that approach.

    It’s a position that’s been arrived at with experience and evidence. There’s been many cases of supposed allies turning out to be rapists or worse. I remember one case in particular where a man, who claimed to be an ally, came out of a hearing that sanctioned him for sexual harassment and immediately started calling himself an ally again.

    People try to label themselves feminist allies because they think they’ll be able to pull chicks. This is a decidedly unfeminist viewpoint. Hence why being called an ally by feminist women is a much greater achievement than just arguing on behalf of feminist causes once. Or even multiply.

    Believe it or not, I was a victim of childhood bullying when I was younger so now you’re in territory I have had considerable experience with.

    Cool. We share a common experience then.

    Yet I don’t throw a shit fit over every joke about childhood beatings that I don’t find particularly humorous.

    Probably because they’re not particularly common. Nor is a childhood bullying victim held as entirely to blame for their victimhood as a rape victim is. Nor, I will wager, do you have PTSD over it. I was once held down by one bully and beaten by another, and I still don’t have PTSD. Most people don’t have it quite as bad as that, even.

    Still, hearing someone laughing about bullying is, or should be for a person of good conscience, viscerally disturbing.

    In reality, it’s a standard that allows victims to be full members of society without being constantly told that they’re subhuman. Rape jokes that victims can’t laugh at re-victimise people. Is that arbitrary?

    I disagree with the claim that rape jokes that aren’t funny to rape victims inherently tell them they’re subhuman. Certainly there are jokes, rape or otherwise, of which the intent is to communicate that message, but I don’t think tastelessness by itself does that.

    Treating what torture in a way that is designed to be humourous and that torture victims don’t find funny is primarily directed at trivialising torture. Whether this is a conscious choice, or just not recognising the message that you’re spreading, joking about torture victims trivialises their experience. Rape is a form of torture, but one that it’s socially acceptable to trivialise. This is rape culture in action.

    To be honest, I don’t really care if you can agree with that. It’s truth, and it has been studied and quantified.

    And again I have to point out that not all rape victims had a problem with the PA strip so how do you determine whether it crossed the line? What if the consensus among rape victims is that a particular rape joke is one that rape victims can laugh at, but some still feel re-victimized by it? Are those dissenters wrong? Does there have to be some sort of rape victim consensus for it to be OK? Or is it one of those I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it things?

    There are rape victims who don’t think what was done to them was a crime, because they don’t think they own themselves. Like all groups, a rape victim does not speak for all rape victims, and attempting to take the point of view of one member of a group and apply it to them all is simplifying the issue to the point of uselessness. So, perhaps, listen to the people who have educated themselves on the inner workings of society when asking about the inner workings of society?

    Asking about rape victims who find a joke that re-victimises themselves funny shows a distinct lack of knowledge on the topic of privilege, as the term is used in social studies. This, incidentally, is one of the reasons you’re alienated by Shakesville. Melissa and her crew expect you to know what privilege is, and how you have it before they expect you to participate on the level that they’re talking at.

    Unfortunately, I’m still learning about my own privilege, so I wont be much help there. But there are some great resources on the web for people who want to learn.

  41. There’s still a point in your examples that doesn’t get acknowledged enough in these debates. Your gran joked about you grandad’s casket to take care of her pain, to look after herself.

    But.

    Making jokes about issues that do not affect you… Usually just comes off as crass and upsets people. Why? Because your joke isn’t funny to someone who actually has to live through the pain when you do not. Why not joke about things that do personally affect you, rather than exploiting the pain of others for personal amusement? Some people may have found the game over screen funny… I don’t really see it as defensible, given that the photo depicted a moment where people died.

    That is most often the issue for me. I don’t find straight people’s jokes about queer people very funny because they just don’t get it. Their jokes usually indicate a real bias they have against me, meaning I know I have to hide who I am to be safe.

    Sometimes humour isn’t just humour and that needs to be acknowledged. The desire to express yourself however you please seems to be being promoted a lot within this debate, despite the fact that we spend most of our childhoods learning to keep certain thoughts in our own heads if they’ll upset others. Where did that courtesy go?

  42. I don’t know, should it? Perhaps it’s my innate cynicism, but I wasn’t at all surprised by their reaction. It’s not what I would’ve done, but then I don’t want to be THAT much of an asshole. Some people seem perfectly happy being that much of an asshole. I try not to hang out with too many of them.

    Uhm, YES, it should. My point wasn’t that their reaction was surprising, but that it was so incredibly vicious and vile, and yet a huge number of people are willing to just take a “Oh, those PA guys are assholes, so what else is new?” stance and leave it at that. The PA guys get a pass because they’re such bad boys, and the rape survivors & feminists get their opinions dissected as if what they said was so much more shocking. It’s kind of ridiculous. To someone who is willing to make money off of directly taunting rape victims, your indifference is a reward to them.

    That said, I have to admit that I find the attitude it suggest very alienating for a cause that I am in favor of.

    Many people that want to be seen as “allies” will only do so conditionally, or for praise, or as long as the target group is really nice to them, or as long as it benefits them personally, which is part of why they are wary of trusting so-called allies.

  43. Hauser writes…

    Which doesn’t mean that the routine wouldn’t be potentially upsetting for a rape survivor, or for that matter that it wouldn’t be potentially triggering, which is a different thing. But it doesn’t really make logical sense to suggest hypocrisy or inconsistency for not speaking out against it (even assuming she saw it).

    Given your explanation I can see the difference. Though quite a few people seemed to have been arguing that jokes which trigger bad memories should never been made either. Which would put The Daily Show bit back on bad ground.

    Though if one has trigger issues you’d think they’d chose which humor websites to visit more carefully.

    I think it’s admirable that you then acknowledge that your impression may be wrong. I think it is wrong – in fact, I think it’s completely wrong, and there it’s completely wrong to say that the argument from Shakesville was ever saying that Krahulik or Holkins were “pro-rape”, in either the strong or the weak sense.

    I’ll concede that point. Though apparently even Gabe thought that was what he was being told:

    @karajanae Didn’t you know honey? You are married to a rape apologist! I have a busy day of perpetuating rape culture. I might be home late

    Jamie writes…

    Yes, there is a difference between being “pro rape” and saying/doing things which support the rape culture, which plenty of well-intentioned people do all the time (Melissa herself has said she’s caught herself participating). The fact that you think the examples she gives constitute ‘almost everything’ makes that participation extremely easy to do, without any malice or “being a bad person” (or whatever it is that offends you about the idea) attached to it.

    I’m not offended by the idea, I just don’t buy into the idea that pretty much all culture is rape culture. Given the prevalence of murder in our society you may as well make the same argument about all culture being murder culture. Hell, I’d argue that’s a more reasonable argument.

    In that case I think maybe it is a matter of ‘being a bad person’, and I could have done to think of more mild examples, but whatever. . .the point is that I don’t believe this makes me ‘pro rape’ and, as I mention the distinction between fantasy and reality, I don’t think many people would accuse me of that. But they would accuse me of contributing to rape culture (a variation of ‘women like it’, in this case), and they’d be right in doing so.

    I suppose if you say so, but I’m still not convinced. It’s an argument that just doesn’t make sense to me.

    It’s also disingenuous to frame the argument about the initial comic as between people who are ‘offended’ and people who are not. The biggest criticism of it was not that it was offensive, but that it was potentially triggering, which is not the same as simply finding something distasteful.

    While I sympathize with folks who suffer from trigger issues, I don’t believe that makes the rest of us responsible for ensuring they never come across a potential trigger anymore than the fact that some folks have peanut allergies means I should never have peanuts in my home because there’s a chance they may visit some day.

    I do think it’s a “bad thing” to intentionally provoke someone’s trigger, as the PA folks did with the Dickwolves merchandising fiasco. I wouldn’t shove peanuts into the face of someone I knew was allergic, but I’m not going to stop eating peanuts simply because some folks have a problem with them.

    So I think what makes the joke offensive is the dismissal of that experience, and similar experiences. The dismissal of the fact that someone can, without any opportunity for preparation, happen upon the phrase ‘raped to sleep’ in a place where they’re normally quite happy with the content, and actually be hurt, is offensive. The fact that Mike later mocked trigger warnings makes it still worse. “Ha-ha, I ruined your day because I just had to make an insensitive joke!”

    What should’ve been offensive is Mike’s dismissal of the experiences, not the original joke. That said, I will point out again here that PA is not known for being a particularly refined and high class humor type of webcomic. Given it’s past and characters — and I’m repeating myself here again — such as the Fruit Fucker, people should already know whether or not they might stumble across a potentially triggering concept there. If you want safe comic reading, stick to Family Circus.

    To go back to my previous analogy, that’s like someone with peanut allergies hanging out in a peanut butter plant and then getting upset when they have an allergic reaction.

    Being offended is, to a degree, a voluntary thing–or, at least, responding to the feeling of offense is. Being triggered, contrarily, is entirely involuntary–it doesn’t make the sufferer weak any more than someone with PTSD from a war situation is weak (and I’ve never seen anyone claim that).

    I’ve never claimed that they were weak for being triggered. I have said that they probably shouldn’t be hanging out on Penny Arcade’s site if they have issues with rape because it’s come up before and will probably come up again. Intentionally exposing yourself to things that might set you off is… not the best decision you could be making.

    Medivh writes…

    It’s a position that’s been arrived at with experience and evidence. There’s been many cases of supposed allies turning out to be rapists or worse. I remember one case in particular where a man, who claimed to be an ally, came out of a hearing that sanctioned him for sexual harassment and immediately started calling himself an ally again.

    People try to label themselves feminist allies because they think they’ll be able to pull chicks. This is a decidedly unfeminist viewpoint. Hence why being called an ally by feminist women is a much greater achievement than just arguing on behalf of feminist causes once. Or even multiply.

    Fair enough I suppose. Though if you’re going to hold people to such high standards out of distrust you’re going to find you have very few allies in the long run.

    Probably because they’re not particularly common. Nor is a childhood bullying victim held as entirely to blame for their victimhood as a rape victim is. Nor, I will wager, do you have PTSD over it. I was once held down by one bully and beaten by another, and I still don’t have PTSD. Most people don’t have it quite as bad as that, even.

    I had it pretty bad. Pretty much grew up with a neighborhood bully who, along with his friends, made a point of pounding on me on a regular basis. In my last year of high school I was pulled out of one of my classes and made to sit in the library every day because otherwise they would have had to suspend half the football team and they didn’t really want to do that.

    No, I don’t have PTSD over it today. Even if I did, however, I would still make a point of avoiding situations that might be triggering.

    Still, hearing someone laughing about bullying is, or should be for a person of good conscience, viscerally disturbing.

    Given some of the crap people laugh about, much of it infinitely worse than bullying, I don’t find it all that disturbing. I tend to have a weirdly cynical optimism about human nature. I like to hope for the best in people, but I expect the worst. More often than not my cynicism is on the mark, but my optimism is rewarded often enough that it doesn’t wither and die.

    Treating what torture in a way that is designed to be humourous and that torture victims don’t find funny is primarily directed at trivialising torture. Whether this is a conscious choice, or just not recognising the message that you’re spreading, joking about torture victims trivialises their experience. Rape is a form of torture, but one that it’s socially acceptable to trivialise. This is rape culture in action.

    By that logic, all humor is trivializing. Which brings us right back to the idea that one shouldn’t try to be funny about anything remotely serious.

    At risk of pulling a Godwin on this thread, I’ll point out that there’s nothing particularly funny about World War II and Nazi Germany. Yet that didn’t stop Mel Brooks, a Jew, from making The Producers, which is considered by many to be a very funny film. When it was first released it got mixed reviews with a number of reviewers trashing it as crude and vulgar and others praising it as hilarious. Roger Ebert once recounted this anecdote about the film:

    “I remember finding myself in an elevator with Brooks and his wife, actress Anne Bancroft, in New York City a few months after The Producers was released. A woman got onto the elevator, recognized him and said, ‘I have to tell you, Mr. Brooks, that your movie is vulgar.’ Brooks smiled benevolently. ‘Lady,’ he said, ‘it rose below vulgarity.’

    There are many who think Mel Brooks shouldn’t have made the film. For starters, I’m sure it didn’t set well with some Holocaust survivors, many of whom probably suffered from PTSD.

    Then there are Holocaust survivors like Adolek Kohn:

    WARSAW, Poland — Who has the right to dance at Auschwitz, to make light of the Holocaust, to shoot videos set amid cattle cars and gas chambers?

    A home video that has gone viral on the Internet showing a Holocaust survivor dancing at Auschwitz and other Holocaust sites to the disco classic “I Will Survive” with his daughter and grandchildren has brought such questions to the fore.

    To some, images of Adolek Kohn and his family shuffling off-beat at such hallowed places is an insult to those who perished; to others a defiant celebration of survival. The incongruous juxtapositions have struck many viewers as funny and chilling at the same time.

    Whether the comedic effects were intentional or not, they bring a new dimension to questions about how far taboos can be tested in an age when comedians like Larry David and Sacha Baron Cohen find rich fodder for their jokes in the Holocaust.

    Should he not have made that video given the fact that it may have been a trigger for other survivors?

    To be honest, I don’t really care if you can agree with that. It’s truth, and it has been studied and quantified.

    Has it now? I’d welcome links to the studies with that conclusion, but blanket statements of what constitutes The Truth without anything to back it up don’t hold much sway with me.

    There are rape victims who don’t think what was done to them was a crime, because they don’t think they own themselves. Like all groups, a rape victim does not speak for all rape victims, and attempting to take the point of view of one member of a group and apply it to them all is simplifying the issue to the point of uselessness. So, perhaps, listen to the people who have educated themselves on the inner workings of society when asking about the inner workings of society?

    Who’s taking the point of view of just one member? There are a lot of rape victims who have said they didn’t have a problem with the strip. But as a dodge to my actual question, this works pretty well.

    Asking about rape victims who find a joke that re-victimises themselves funny shows a distinct lack of knowledge on the topic of privilege, as the term is used in social studies. This, incidentally, is one of the reasons you’re alienated by Shakesville. Melissa and her crew expect you to know what privilege is, and how you have it before they expect you to participate on the level that they’re talking at.

    Hmm. Now you’re not only telling me what The Truth is, but what the source of my alienation is. Which, ironically enough, is something that tends to alienate me.

    Please don’t try to dictate to me what my thoughts, feelings, and motivations are. It’s really not persuasive.

    Iany writes…

    There’s still a point in your examples that doesn’t get acknowledged enough in these debates. Your gran joked about you grandad’s casket to take care of her pain, to look after herself.

    Actually, she joked about my grandfather lying in state to help alleviate our pain, not hers. I don’t think there’s anything she could have done to alleviate her own pain.

    Making jokes about issues that do not affect you… Usually just comes off as crass and upsets people. Why? Because your joke isn’t funny to someone who actually has to live through the pain when you do not.

    And yet I have several friends who have told me that my sense of humor about some painful thing they’re going through is one of the things that helped them through it.

    As an example, I have friend who has terminal cancer and probably only has a few months left to live. I’ve made a number of jokes to him that you would probably consider crass and tasteless. He has told me he finds them quite funny.

    Now I suppose it’s possible he’s just saying that so I don’t feel like an asshole for joking about his immanent death, but I’ve tried to make sure I haven’t crossed any lines and, if I am to believe him, I have yet to do so. He has told me, quite frankly, that the humor helps.

    Of course, I know him well enough to know that he’d probably respond to the jokes in a positive way. I wouldn’t walk into a cancer ward and start saying the same things to a total stranger, but my point is that you can’t make blanket statements about what people who are going through a painful process will or will not find funny.

    Why not joke about things that do personally affect you, rather than exploiting the pain of others for personal amusement? Some people may have found the game over screen funny… I don’t really see it as defensible, given that the photo depicted a moment where people died.

    I do joke about things that do personally affect me. It’s probably a source of a lot of my humor.

    As for the attempt at Twin Towers humor, how about this image, or this one, or this one, perhaps this one. That’s only a small handful of 9/11 Twin Tower jokes I found with a simple Google search.

    Arguably they’re all in bad taste, but I did laugh at more than one and apparently a lot of other people did too as many of them are repeated across various websites.

    That is most often the issue for me. I don’t find straight people’s jokes about queer people very funny because they just don’t get it. Their jokes usually indicate a real bias they have against me, meaning I know I have to hide who I am to be safe.

    That’s unfortunate. In contrast, at one of my former jobs one of my coworkers was flamboyantly gay and flirted with me often to which I would respond in kind despite being straight. He knew I was kidding and he seemed to love the fact that I was willing to play along. Half the office thought I was gay while the other half knew I was engaged to be married at the time. He got a kick out of the confusion it caused.

    Sometimes humour isn’t just humour and that needs to be acknowledged. The desire to express yourself however you please seems to be being promoted a lot within this debate, despite the fact that we spend most of our childhoods learning to keep certain thoughts in our own heads if they’ll upset others. Where did that courtesy go?

    I’m all for courtesy, but at the same time I don’t necessarily agree that what passes for courtesy actually counts for much.

    While I am promoting free expression, please note that I am not suggesting that it won’t have consequences or that you shouldn’t take flack for it. If you tell racist jokes people are going to consider you a racist and may shun and criticize you as a result. Sure, some folks (other racists) may find your humor funny, but if you want to hang out with more than just fellow racists you’ll find it problematic.

    Perhaps the above is true for you, but it’s a mistake to assume it’s true for everyone.

  44. Though if you’re going to hold people to such high standards out of distrust you’re going to find you have very few allies in the long run.

    Funnily enough, not so much. Feminism wouldn’t have survived as a movement if it were self-destructive.

    No, I don’t have PTSD over it today. Even if I did, however, I would still make a point of avoiding situations that might be triggering.

    Now imagine a scenario where you do have PTSD as a result of your bullying. Then add in the fact that comedians like to make fun of you, as a victim, to give their sets a little more “edge”. Where your victimhood is used as a hook on a regular basis for TV shows. Where people seem to think that it’s OK to advertise a desire to harm you in exactly the same way as you were harmed before in a public space. And other people laugh at you for being marginalised. Then they laugh at you and call you weak for having a panic attack in the face of this onslaught.

    I can’t actually get all the way there, because of my privilege. I have no experiences that even come close. So if you can imagine this, you’re a better man than I. But perhaps it might be worth considering, if you think you can imagine it, that it’s a lot worse than you can conjure up in your mind. PTSD resulting from rape is ridiculously hard to live with.

    Given some of the crap people laugh about, much of it infinitely worse than bullying, I don’t find it all that disturbing.

    This is… disappointing. More than that, it’s disturbing in it’s own right. You’re so desensitised to violence that the idea of a child being attacked and then laughed at is no longer disturbing to you?

    Incidentally, that’s where this line:

    To be honest, I don’t really care if you can agree with that. It’s truth, and it has been studied and quantified.

    comes in. And I respect your commitment to evidence over some random person flapping gums (or keys in my case). So, here goes: What’s been quantified is the idea that the more violence is normalised in society, the more violent society is. This should be common sense, along side the idea that jokes normalise their topics. And while I can’t find the study I was thinking of on the topic of violent humour, normalised violence begetting violence is studied here. Unfortunately, the connection might not be as obvious as simple common sense would make it in this case.

    Equally unfortunately, normalised violence begetting more violence is taken as read in social theory. Finding studies that support this is difficult, if only because they were all done in the ’70s. However, opening a 101-level text on social theory that treats violence will confirm that it’s a proven theory, in as far as science proves anything. Such a text can be found here, I think. I haven’t had the time to read it myself yet, but it does talk about violent attitudes being a cause of rape, so it sounds like it’s on topic.

    Treating what torture in a way that is designed to be humourous and that torture victims don’t find funny is primarily directed at trivialising torture.

    By that logic, all humor is trivializing. Which brings us right back to the idea that one shouldn’t try to be funny about anything remotely serious.

    I agree with the first sentence. The second is where you fall apart; it’s a non-sequitur. As I said, trivialising the needs of rapists is generally humorous to rape survivors. It’s a serious topic, but it’s also the victims getting some of their power back from their oppressors. This is right, and good. Jokes trivialising rape survivors, though, are aimed at further depowering an already depowered group.

    To clear up what I think is a misconception in your arguments (and note, that I’ve been feeding it, as have others): noone has the right to tell you what to find funny. And the crew at Shakesville aren’t trying to do that. They are telling you that by laughing at jokes that degrade them, you are degrading them. They are telling you that you’re a bad person for that. The reason, I percieve, for this misconception is that Shakesville spends a lot of time pointing out rape culture in action. Not calling out perpetrators to silence them, but so that people who are receptive to Shakeville’s ethos are able to see that the culture includes acceptance of rape. The majority of non-feminist people who read the posts took valid criticism as an attempt at silencing and acted accordingly. To be fair, the post looks to be written that way from an outside perspective. But it wasn’t written for you. At least not yet.

    <snip The Producers>

    What Mel Brooks does with his heritage is his own business. I’m not going to tell him that he’s an arse for making light of the Holocaust. If it were Mel Gibson, I’d step right up, though.

    Should [Adolek Kohn] not have made that video given the fact that it may have been a trigger for other survivors?

    Being in that he’s sensitive to the needs of Holocaust survivors, I assume he’d preface it with a warning. Unlike rape, being a Holocaust survivor in today’s society isn’t assumed to be correlated with weakness, so leaving such a presentation wouldn’t be an admission of weakness like leaving a presentation including rape would be.

    There are rape victims who don’t think what was done to them was a crime, because they don’t think they own themselves. Like all groups, a rape victim does not speak for all rape victims, and attempting to take the point of view of one member of a group and apply it to them all is simplifying the issue to the point of uselessness. So, perhaps, listen to the people who have educated themselves on the inner workings of society when asking about the inner workings of society?

    Who’s taking the point of view of just one member? There are a lot of rape victims who have said they didn’t have a problem with the strip. But as a dodge to my actual question, this works pretty well.

    That’s an interesting point to take. What you did with the original question was assume that the viewpoints of rape victims that found the original joke funny were necessarily equivalent to those who didn’t. You didn’t think to correct for education, or experience. There’s no way of me doing that, given the complete lack of detail. In essence, the original question was a giant red herring. When I point this out to you, I’m dodging the question?

    Hmm. Now you’re not only telling me what The Truth is, but what the source of my alienation is. Which, ironically enough, is something that tends to alienate me.

    Please don’t try to dictate to me what my thoughts, feelings, and motivations are. It’s really not persuasive.

    Are you alienated by an amateur civil engineer telling you that you don’t know enough about bridge building and need to be educated before you can understand the situation? Are you alienated by an amateur chemist telling you that you don’t know enough and need to be educated before you can understand the situation?

    Why are you alienated by an amateur social scientist telling you that you need more education before you can understand a situation? You are alienated from Shakesville in the same way that someone who has a high school education in physics would be alienated from a discussion on string theory. And despite your protestation, this isn’t “try[ing] to dictate to me what my thoughts, feelings, and motivations are.” It’s dictating to you that, as someone with more knowledge of the issue at hand, I can see you’re misunderstanding sections of it.

    It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

  45. I suppose that depends on the person and the way in which they are called out. I admit I’m part of the Privileged Norm and I try to be aware of it, but being told I’m a rape apologist when I’m very much anti-rape is not the way to win me over.

    Ah, yes. Let me snark a tiny bit and tell you how lucky you are to have the option of not being won over. The tone argument is pretty common, though.

    And it’s a familiar concept from the “I’m not a racist!” crowd, when they are confronted with their privilege. You’ve acknowledged your own privilege many times but I still get the feeling that the concept of privilege is somewhat vague to you.

    Having white male privilege doesn’t make you bad or racist. Nor do jokes about rape make you a rapist. But racism is real and so is rape culture, and if you have privilege you gain from that, in ways you probably don’t notice because it’s hard to know how others experience their lives and it’s easy to think they experience it the same as you. Racism and rape culture influence how we think and experience the world and the majority of people don’t even notice it. It’s just the way the world is.

    When you make crass jokes to your dying friend you must be doing it because you know them well and they know you well and if they felt you overstepped the line they would tell you (hopefully?) Well, I guess it’s the same with the comic. Some people who care to read the comic criticized it when they decided it had overstepped their line and hoped the guys would change their ways.

    If your friend came to you and said that your jokes were hurtful you would have a couple of options at hand. 1) Apologize for being insensitive and hurtful. 2) Apologize if their feelings got hurt (difference being between being sorry you were the cause of the hurt and being sorry the person couldn’t take the hurt in jest) or 3) Decide that you should have a right to make the kind of jokes you think are funny, regardless of whose feelings you hurt when doing so.

    If you pick option #3 you don’t very well get to tell your friend they’re too sensitive, while you just proved to them that you don’t actually care about their feelings in the first place.

    People tend to react badly when they’re told that something they think is totally acceptable, totally isn’t, because it implies that they’re bad people and doing it on purpose. But someone has to be the first to tell you when what you’re doing is hurtful. And it’s up for debate with the mainstream whether or not rape jokes are OK, or what jokes aren’t, but for a certain audience it was clearly NOT OK and they spoke up.

    At some point you’ve got to own your privilege if you want to show that you AREN’T racist. Or a rape apologist. Just don’t be the well meaning guy who tells every minority he meets that “Oh no, I’m not racist – I don’t see color!” (or “I’m not misogynist, I’m married to a woman!”) and then has a hissy fit when called on that bullshit. Because for every well meaning “colorblind” guy out there, there are 1000 racist assholes who have no problem seeing and discriminating against minorities.

    And so, I guess, it’s hard to approve of or find rape jokes funny if you are SINCERELY an ally of the feminist movement and not just calling yourself one because it gives you the fuzzies. And there is no shame in deciding that this is not where your time is best spent or it’s not a subject you find to be important, but then don’t come and desire to call yourself an ally or get upset if you’re not welcomed with open arms for technically being on “their side”, or if being an ally requires something of you that you aren’t ready to give (including not making a joke that uses rape as an edge, even if you personally don’t think it feeds into rape culture where rape is trivialized by joking about it, often.)

    As a privileged and potential ally you’re a guest and at the end of the day you can retire back to your privileged world and not have to think about it if you so choose. No need to remind minorities that if they don’t win you over by being NICE and using a nice TONE when talking to you about the way you’re hurting them, you’ll just be over there in your ivory tower instead. They know that. They’re asking you to be an ally because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of how the argument is presented, and sometimes it’s presented in a shrill voice because it’s a very emotional subject to those affected.

    So, really, it’s not up to minorities to accept you and hold you up as someone who is on their side in their battle for equality and fairness. It’s up to us privileged people to step out of our comfort zone and not go on the defensive (What? You think I’m pro-rape?? ME? How dare you make me feel uncomfortable by suggesting I support rape???*), suck it up and maybe learn a thing or two from those who have to live it 24/7.

    *Which is a pretty cute strawman. I mean, who would actually in all seriousness call themselves pro-rape? Even rapists don’t go around calling themselves pro rape – it would make it harder for them to keep raping! And rapists feel at home where rape jokes are made. It trivializes rape AND it makes “real” rape into such a horrible deed that only really awful mean horrible people commit REAL rape, and so date rape? Doesn’t happen! “She must have woken up and regretted it and now she’s calling it rape, can you believe? I know Dave and he is no rapist!”

    They did a study on self reported rape, from the male perspective. It turns out, guys are much more likely to admit to rape if you put it in nicer terms. That right there IS rape culture. Rape is BAD, but hey if I get her drunk and ask her to have sex and she says no 34 times, on the 35th time she gives in and then it’s totes OK as long as we don’t call it rape. It’s about boundaries and how we disregard other people’s boundaries to get what we want, about not listening when something we do or say is hurtful because it isn’t hurtful to US, because there are no repercussions for the privileged just for being privileged.

    (Sorry if this goes through twice. Oh, and mostly I’ve used the general “you”, not you-you, I hope that’s clear.)

  46. Sas writes…

    Uhm, YES, it should. My point wasn’t that their reaction was surprising, but that it was so incredibly vicious and vile, and yet a huge number of people are willing to just take a “Oh, those PA guys are assholes, so what else is new?” stance and leave it at that. The PA guys get a pass because they’re such bad boys, and the rape survivors & feminists get their opinions dissected as if what they said was so much more shocking. It’s kind of ridiculous. To someone who is willing to make money off of directly taunting rape victims, your indifference is a reward to them.

    Who said they get a pass? Based on this thread alone it’s hard to see how that’s the case.

    And the Feminists have said something that is much more shocking to me. They claim that all of popular culture is complicit in supporting “rape culture.” The PA guys were assholes, but they didn’t claim all of society was unknowingly complicit in some horrible plan to marginalize a group of victims.

    As for being indifferent, I’m not. I’ve plainly stated that it was a dumb move that would carry with it repercussions they probably hadn’t given much thought to. It’s one thing to accidentally offend, it’s another to whip out a pointy stick and start poking at the wound.

    Many people that want to be seen as “allies” will only do so conditionally, or for praise, or as long as the target group is really nice to them, or as long as it benefits them personally, which is part of why they are wary of trusting so-called allies.

    That’s called Human Nature. Yeah, a lot of what we do could be argued to have at least some selfish motivation behind it.

    For the record, I’m less concerned with being considered an ally than with being considered an enemy. I am sympathetic to their plight and willing to help where I can, but I’m not going to bust my ass to earn a label. I find No True Scotsman arguments to be pointless.

    Medivh writes…

    Funnily enough, not so much. Feminism wouldn’t have survived as a movement if it were self-destructive.

    Not sure I see how your link supports your claim. She pretty much says she distrusts most men. Seems she’s expressing a certain amount of feeling alone in doing so.

    Now imagine a scenario where you do have PTSD as a result of your bullying. Then add in the fact that comedians like to make fun of you, as a victim, to give their sets a little more “edge”. Where your victimhood is used as a hook on a regular basis for TV shows. Where people seem to think that it’s OK to advertise a desire to harm you in exactly the same way as you were harmed before in a public space. And other people laugh at you for being marginalised. Then they laugh at you and call you weak for having a panic attack in the face of this onslaught.

    I can’t actually get all the way there, because of my privilege. I have no experiences that even come close. So if you can imagine this, you’re a better man than I. But perhaps it might be worth considering, if you think you can imagine it, that it’s a lot worse than you can conjure up in your mind. PTSD resulting from rape is ridiculously hard to live with.

    I would think that PTSD from any experience is difficult to live with. Which is part of why I’m very much in support of greater mental health availability to people — particularly soldiers in this context, but really anyone — who suffers from it. It’s what I’d seek out if I didn’t have PTSD. You can’t change what caused the PTSD, but that doesn’t mean you just have to live with it either.

    As for imagining your scenario, I don’t find it difficult to do. I can sympathize, but I don’t think it means everyone should be walking on egg shells. Call the assholes out for being assholes, but, again, if you’re going to engage assholes…

    This is… disappointing. More than that, it’s disturbing in it’s own right. You’re so desensitised to violence that the idea of a child being attacked and then laughed at is no longer disturbing to you?

    Disturbing? No. Angering? Yes. I’m not disturbed when I think back to getting my ass kicked by a gang of kids. I’m angered by it. I’m not disturbed by hearing about pedophile priests. I’m angered by it. Perhaps you’re using the words interchangeably, but I consider them separate concepts.

    Simply because I don’t find it disturbing doesn’t mean I think it’s right.

    And I respect your commitment to evidence over some random person flapping gums (or keys in my case). So, here goes: What’s been quantified is the idea that the more violence is normalised in society, the more violent society is. This should be common sense, along side the idea that jokes normalise their topics. And while I can’t find the study I was thinking of on the topic of violent humour, normalised violence begetting violence is studied here. Unfortunately, the connection might not be as obvious as simple common sense would make it in this case.

    Equally unfortunately, normalised violence begetting more violence is taken as read in social theory. Finding studies that support this is difficult, if only because they were all done in the ’70s. However, opening a 101-level text on social theory that treats violence will confirm that it’s a proven theory, in as far as science proves anything. Such a text can be found here, I think. I haven’t had the time to read it myself yet, but it does talk about violent attitudes being a cause of rape, so it sounds like it’s on topic.

    I definitely misunderstood the point of your statement about truth and I apologize for that. Also, I promise to read the links you provided. I need to get to work at the moment, though, so it won’t be immediate.

    The rest of this will have to wait. I’m behind schedule as it is.

  47. What Mel Brooks does with his heritage is his own business. I’m not going to tell him that he’s an arse for making light of the Holocaust. If it were Mel Gibson, I’d step right up, though.

    Quote of the day!

    Although, actually, The Producers has very little humour in it about the Holocaust – I can’t think of any references to it at all, offhand. Brooks did produce and star in a remake of the wartime movie To Be or Not to Be, where one of the characters (a gay man in occupied Poland) is arrested by the Gestapo, with the clear sense that he is going to be sent to a concentration camp or killed – but that isn’t played for laughs at all. It’s the moment where it’s shown that the characters, who have been getting by as best they can, can’t hold themselves apart from the brutality of the occupation.

    Joking about Hitler is very different from joking about the Holocaust, I think – Charlie Chaplin was doing a comedy Hitler as early as 1940, whereas even 50 years later Roberto Benigni’s La Vida e Bella was considered either very gutsy or in terrible taste- and that wasn’t trying to make the Holocaust funny, but use it as the backdrop to a film with comic elements. Which brings us back to the idea, which I think we agree doesn’t stand up to examination, that all jokes involving rape are the same kind of joke, which neither feminism in general or Shakesville in particular or Melissa McEwan in super-particular are arguing. Which leads nicely on to:

    Given the prevalence of murder in our society you may as well make the same argument about all culture being murder culture. Hell, I’d argue that’s a more reasonable argument.

    Which has fortunately been answered before elsewhere, but the short version is probably that actually, although we talk about murder a lot, and we read about murder, very few people are actually murdered (in the US, and certainly in the social circles the average Penny Arcade reader is likely to move in). So, no, murder is not really prevalent in our society. According to RAINN, 1 in 6 women in the US will be subjected to rape or attempted rape in their lives. I know a lot of people who flat-out refuse to believe that this could possibly be true, and whether that’s about the statistics or them I won’t comment on: let’s just say that the evidence base exists for that not to be an order of magnitude out. In 2000 there were 4.3 murders per 100,000 people in the US – that’s high for a developed nation, but it still means that, especially given the demographics, if anyone reading Penny Arcade has known even one person who has been murdered they are in a minority, and if they have themselves been murdered then we have much bigger issues to discuss than whether they have been offended by a comic strip.

    So, that’s one thing. The other thing is that this fundamentally misunderstands (again) what rape culture is defined as. It’s a culture where the prevalence and seriousness of rape is consistently understated. When people are murdered, it’s comparatively rare for people to argue that they had probably asked for it, or that it was their own fault for going out drinking on their own, or that they are pretending to have been murdered to get sympathy, or that by making a big deal out of a simple misunderstanding they are going to ruin their murderer’s life, even though he is a good man overall. So, there’s that, too.

    Misunderstandings of these concepts are by no means uncommon, as I think we’re seeing, and of course opinions differ on the detail – rape culture isn’t like pi; it will mean different things to different people. So, when you say:

    Though apparently even Gabe thought that was what he was being told:

    I don’t really get the “even” part. We don’t know what was in the emails he got. We know what Milly A said on Shakesville (that she can’t really enjoy mainstream humour any more, because for her the prevalence of jokes which go to rape for a quick laugh upset her too much, and this was an example of something she’d enjoyed in the past doing that). We know that there is plenty of material out there which might seek to explain the terms, but we also know from experience even within this discussion that it’s easy to misunderstand these explanations, or unconsciously to select the parts which support a particular viewpoint, and draw a particular and incorrect conclusion – that feminists want to ban all humour that mentions rape in any capacity, or are saying that people who are flippant about rape are “pro-rape”, or are knowingly inciting other people to commit rape.

    But acting on that misunderstanding does potentially have consequences – not so much if you’re writing a personal blog, but quite a lot if you have a huge fanbase who are relying on you to tell them who is right and wrong, and who are going to take your reading of events more or less uncritically to heart and act on it.

  48. “Who said they get a pass? Based on this thread alone it’s hard to see how that’s the case.”

    Isn’t that a bit of a strawman too? They caught the eye of Shakesville and other feminists, who are used to making a ruckus (hey, we can vote now, so I’m pretty grateful.) Plenty of people suffer in silence because it’s hard just living with the suffering. It gets so much worse when you live with the suffering, have to explain the suffering in minute detail to people who doubt your suffering and then get told you’re not actually suffering as much as you think you’re suffering or you’re not suffering enough. Or, we didn’t mean to hurt you so stop hurting already and stop making US feel bad!

    And plenty of people will give a pass to that, especially if their suffering is not the kind of suffering being used to make a point about some arbitrary rule of an RPG.

    I think this thread’s lack of “passing” shows what kind of audience you’ve got :)

  49. Who said they get a pass? Based on this thread alone it’s hard to see how that’s the case.

    Waving off their actions with a sentence or two and then focusing exclusively on finding faults with their detractors is giving them a pass.

    The PA guys were assholes, but they didn’t claim all of society was unknowingly complicit in some horrible plan to marginalize a group of victims

    The PA guys sold t-shirts to taunt rape victims. I seriously do not believe you really think rape culture theory is more shocking than that. As in, I really don’t, I can only think you’re adopting that as a rhetorical stance without actually meaning it.

  50. I’m at work so I don’t have time to fully respond, but I wanted to take a moment and thank everyone who has been patient enough to explain to me where my perceptions are skewed. That’s not sarcasm either.

    I realize I may come across as sounding defensive in the course of this discussion, but that’s not my intent. It is, as I said previously, an attempt at self-reflection which is always a tricky thing to do. Of course I’m probably revealing more of how much of an asshole I can be myself than I have in the past, but that’s the risk one takes when he attempts self-examination.

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