• Geek Media – What’s With All the Rape?

    by  • May 31, 2012 • Essays • 61 Comments

    [This is a big fat trigger warning. Some or all of these links may be very triggering, as might be the tone of some of the stuff I say here. Also, this is long. You’ve been warned. Lastly, thanks to the GaW crew for vetting multiple drafts and letting me steal their words in some places.]

    I recently had a male acquaintance email me about a social media conversation in which I alluded to how rape is horrifyingly prevalent in all genres of geek media. He said (politely!) that this wasn’t something that he had ever noticed, and could I possibly send him a link or two so that he could do some reading up on the matter.

    Because I’m incapable of being concise, I wound up sending him a long list of links. However, it was pretty incomplete, as it was comprised only of links to examples that I could think of off the top of my head in about half an hour. Afterward, I wondered if it would be beneficial to fill out the list with some more diverse examples and to expand a bit more on the examples I did provide, since the commentary was pretty limited. But before we get any further, let me address two important things:

    First: Why is this important? (or: why is rape any worse than assault, murder, etc)

    “But, wundergeek!” you might be saying. “The examples you list are all dark and gritty settings. Rape is just an awful thing that happens!” Or perhaps you might saying, “why are you picking on rape when all of these things are full of murder and violence? Isn’t that worse?”

    Let’s be clear. I could write an entire post about why the extreme prevalence of rape in geek media is terrible, and that’s something I might do later. For now, though, I’ll be brief, though and summarize:

    • There’s a meme in geek culture of making female characters “strong” by raping them, to the point where strong female characters who haven’t been raped or otherwise assaulted can be hard to come by. And that says so many very fucked up things about women. Like women are only allowed to be strong if we’ve been raped? The only reason we could possibly buck gender norms and become heroes is because we’ve been “damaged”?
    • A lot of the time, rape gets used in geek media as a short-hand for “evil”. Writers want to establish a character’s evil cred, so they have that character rape someone. That trivializes the reality of rape – that around 80% of rape victims are raped by people who are known to them, people whom they should be able to feel safe around. The reality of rape is far more nuanced than geek media would have you believe.
    • From a creator standpoint, this points to a deficiency in how women are viewed by the creators of geek media:

      “Rape is such a common trope in geek media because of a failure to imagine women as human beings. Instead, a woman’s vagina (and how it’s used by others) defines who and what she is. If women are not human, then human tragedies don’t apply to women – only special “woman” tragedies. And that means vagina tragedies.”1 – Jessica Hammer

      It becomes a self-perpetuating loop. Creators of geek media create media that portray women as sub-humans with tragic vaginas, which influences how new generations of geeks think about women, which breeds new creators who create more media that perpetrates this model of female “story-telling”.

    • The extreme prevalence of rape against female characters in geek media marks geekdom as a male space, a space where women cannot have the assumption of safety. This impacts REAL LIFE WOMEN who get harassed and assaulted at geek conferences and conventions. This bad behavior isn’t coming from a magical thought vaccuum, and the extreme prevalence of rape in geek media just makes this worse.

    Second: Liking any of these things does not make you a bad person who likes rape

    Liking a geek media property that has problematic elements does not make you a bad person. If the media you consume is sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic/etc, that doesn’t mean that liking it makes you any of those things! But it’s important to not dismiss the problematic elements in a media property you like. Saying that you like it and you are not a terrible person is not enough to make those thigns go away. (A great resource that delves into this in more detail is “How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things”.)

    Now that that’s out of the way…

    Let’s get on with the links! You’ll note that I have a lot of non-game media on here. That’s because gaming is hardly a distinct segment of nerddom, especially with all the licensing tie-ins you see with games like the Marvel RPG and the Game of Thrones RPG. That and the diversity of geek media consumed by the average gamer makes all of this fair game in my books.

    It should go without saying that this list, as the title mentions, is by no means an exhaustive catalog of rape in geek media. I’m sure that there is an astonishing amount that I’m missing here. Also, because of the sheer length, I’ve broken it out into a few loose categories, since not all rape depictions are created equal and it’s useful to differentiate.

    Lazy writing: villains

    [This one comes first, because this is honestly a sin against writing just as much as it is a sin against not failing at rape culture. There is a tendency for writers to say to themselves “I need to establish this villain as evil. How do I do that? I know! RAPE!” It’s seriously the laziest thing ever, because in addition to being awful and perpetuating rape culture, it’s also just plain unoriginal and cliche. It doesn’t make your villain hardcore evil. It makes them into a not-scary two-dimensional cardboard cutout.]

    • In Firefly, some of the main villains are the Reavers, who explicitly are called out as raping their victims: “If they take the ship, they’ll rape us to death, eat our flesh and sew our skins into their clothing. And if we’re very very lucky, they’ll do it in that order.” The Reavers are supposed to represent horrifyingly inhuman barbarism, sure. But is the rape really necessary when you have murder and cannibalism on the list? Not really.
    • Dungeons & Dragons: Why do orcs rape women and create so many half-orcs that they’re a separate and distinct race in the D&D universe? Because they’re EVIL. DUH. How do you know that the drow matriarchy is evil? Because when they want babies they rape their partners! D&D manages to come at it from both directions.
    • The Penny Arcade dickwolves fiasco: There’s a Really, really long summary here, but in a nutshell they made a comic that joked about rape, then made fun of the rape survivors who complained about the comic, then SOLD SHIRTS based on the rape-joke comic, then stopped selling the shirts when it started hurting attendance at PAX but never really properly apologized. Or rather they did, but it was a “we’re sorry you were offended” sort of apology, which actually isn’t a real apology at all.

       (For the record, I was in the camp that thought the original comic was funny but that their subsequent response to objections was completely unacceptable and Not Okay.)

       Anyhow. The point they were making with the original comic was a good one. Did they need to make that point with rape? Nope. Not at all.

    Vagina tragedies

    [It’s worth noting that we intend the phrase ‘vagina tragedies’ to be critical of the notion that all women have vaginas, or that rape only affects vagina-possessors – not to mention the lazy writing and characterization behind these assumptions. The tragic vagina narrative works to erase the experiences of trans people, in addition to the awful fates suffered by the few trans characters to appear in geek media.]

    Comic books are far and away the biggest perpetrators of the “vagina tragedy” school of rape portrayal in geek media. It was comic books that actually spawned the “women in refrigerators” trope (so named for the Green Lantern’s girlfriend, who was killed and stuffed into a refrigerator). There’s an entire website devoted to the phenomenon, as well as a more concise list of fridged women in comics here. There’s also a great collection of posts about rape in comics over at Girls Read Comics (and they’re pissed) under the tag “rape: it’s awesome”. Also, here’s a good look over at Comic Book Resources at rape of female characters as a trend that goes back pretty far in comic books.

    Strong female characters

    [This is one of my least favorite kinds of rape depictions – the tendency to say “this female character is strong. What made her strong? RAPE.” At first blush, the “strong female characters” school of rape portrayals seems like it might make sense to just lump it in with “vagina tragedies” rape portrayals. And it would, were it not for the fact that “strong female characters” rape depictions are so. Fucking. Common. It is seriously, seriously depressing how common it is to take a female character who is strong, competent, and badass and then “explain” that strength as being a reaction to rape, or to show her “being strong” by having her react to being raped. As such, it’s its own particular subset of awful, awful vagina tragedies.]

    • Comic books: What, again? Yes, again. There’s a reason I don’t read mainstream comics. But also deserving of special mention is how comic books sometimes like to turn the tables by turning strong female characters into the people who commit rape. Edgy! Case in point, Tarantula rapes Nightwing (scroll down to #2). Also, the recent New 52 Wonder Woman #7 turns all of the Amazons into a race of raping black widow baby-killers. Literally. Like, I can’t emphasize enough that this isn’t a metaphor. They are LITERALLY raping men and killing babies.
    • The Paksnarrion Trilogy by Elizabeth Moon: This is an example of one of the most offensive variants of “strong female characters rape” – the female character who receives special powers as a result of rape. Paksnarrion, the series’ eponymous main character, is tortured for five days by a group of evil cultists who finish off the whole thing by gang-raping her. It’s this event that marks her as blessed by her god and leads to her getting special powers as a Paladin. And, you know, that’s okay because she’s already lost the only man she would have considered saving herself for.


      Seriously. “Strong female characters” rape is bad enough, but “rape gives you magic powers” is the worst. I can’t even begin to articulate how angry this bullshit makes me.

    • Joss Whedon(yes he’s his own genre) (shut up): Full disclosure: I love Joss Whedon. Like, really, really, love pretty much anything that comes out of his brain. The best way to get me to pay money for something is for it to have Joss’ name on it. Remember what I said above, re: how to like problematic things? Just because I love him doesn’t mean he doesn’t fall on his face too.So the biggest, most rape-y title of Joss’ is also the only title of his that I haven’t consumed – Dollhouse. The series premiere left me kind of cold and I never bothered to keep up with it. I’ve read a fair amount of critique about the portrayal of the dolls and sex, since they are not capable of consenting. Since I haven’t seen it, I’ll just say that a lot of smart people have said smart things about why rape is really, really a problem in Dollhouse.Touching on stuff I have seen, there’s some really sketchy stuff in Season 6 of Buffy dealing with Buffy’s relationship with Spike. The fact that Buffy consents early on in the relationship to some pretty rough sex does not obviate the rape-y-ness of events that happen later in the season. And while arguments could be made that the Buffy/Spike dynamic is Joss’s attempt to take a hard look at intimate partner violence, it’s also the season he had the least involvement with, which makes me suspect that it was probably more ‘we need bad stuff to happen to Buffy, I know, let’s have Spike almost rape her’.And let’s not forget Faith, the bad-girl Slayer who is strong but oh-so-damaged. Her history of being sexually victimized isn’t as clear in Buffy, but it’s hinted at more strongly in Angel and pretty explicitly in the Buffy Season 8 comics. I’m less apt to be forgiving on this one because it falls right into the “woman who is strong because she is damaged goods” trap that so much other geek media (especially comics) falls into.

      Even Firefly is guilty of this. In the episode with Saffron, there’s some really, really skeevy stuff that happens with consent, which – while not rape – is still really awful. Like, seriously. Consent is important, people.

    Rape as setting

    [Rape as setting tends to be something that is mostly a problem with RPGs, although it certainly pops up in different forms of geek media. You see this in setting materials that are defining specific subcultures within a fictional world, often either as products of rape or as groups that engage in rape as part of their default practices. Frequently this rape is justified as “part of the culture”, as if it came from a magical thought vacuum. In fantasy settings based on crypto-medieval Europe, you also will see people make the argument for “realism” as a justification for rape as setting while simultaneously ignoring that dragons and magic are inherently unrealistic.]

    • Dungeons and Dragons: A lot of “canon” setting in D&D has historically been based on rape. Look at the existence of half-orcs, for example. I’ve played in a campaign where they were a result of intentional interbreeding, but that’s a rarity. Usually it’s pretty explicit that half-orcs are the product of rape. Then there’s the issue of the drow, an entire culture of evil matriarchal elves. I’ve seen some pretty sketchy things about the portrayal of reproduction within drow society that come off as pretty rape-tastic too.
      Before this past week, I would have said that this was largely a historical problem for D&D. 4E, while still pretty loaded with racism and sexism, was actually quite a large step in the right direction. There was a lot less stuff that made me cringe in the 4E artwork I encountered. D&D Next, however, it seems represents perhaps a step backwards, as indicated by Jon Schindette’s blog post about how worrying about sexism is haaaaaardand he just doesn’t want to do it. (Keep in mind Jon Schindette is the art director for D&D Next.)How is that relevant? Well it wasn’t more than a week after that before this post popped up here with, um, a super-awful title image – a mostly-naked woman who is tied up and surrounded by very obviously leering orcs. It made me very uncomfortable as I remembered how often the trope of rape as the cause of half-orcs has come up in D&D canon. And now this image for D&D Next published as part of D&D Insider of a bunch of lizardmen forcing a snake into the mouth of a bound, helpless, female elf adventurer.Obvious rape metaphor is obvious.

      So while previously I would have said that Wizards was overall getting better about rape-y-ness in their setting material, I take all that back. It’s still very much an issue.

    • World of Darkness: WoD’s art is largely pretty good. (Being a product initially more targeted toward women.) But when it’s bad, it can be really, really bad. Like this cover for a supplement called The Danse Macabre, which was actually nominated for an Ennie last year and basically features a vampire gang rape. (The image is pulled from my blog, so ignore the other half there.)
      There’s also Werewolf, which has an awful amount of rape in the setting material. I haven’t played it (I stuck to Vampire), so I’m going to quote a smart person who was summarizing one particular rape-y thing in Werewolf:

      In Werewolf the Forsaken, two dogs can’t have babies together. Procreation results in evil spirit babies and the culture often kills the mother (possibly father) of said evil spirit babies IF evil spirit baby doesn’t kill her first. As a result, mentioned in the either War Against the Pure, or The Pure, the evil meany head werewolves will capture female werewolves and instead of killing them, leave them alive, rape them until they get pregnant and then send them home to deal with their fate. – Filamena Young

      Charming. Also, pretty consistent with my knowledge of WoD lore, which is just plain depressing.

    • Warhammer: I don’t play minis games, but thankfully I know people who do and who are conversant with the setting material:

      Fimir, a race of chaos monster from early editions of Warhammer and Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay, couldn’t procreate on their own, so they had to kidnap and rape human women to make more baby fimirs. This was explicit in the background material. They were removed from later editions, possibly because GW’s focus shifted away from older gamers and towards a younger demographic, and a rapey race of monsters would be inappropriate for that market. But they remain a fan favorite among players from those earlier editions, and people continue to use them/develop fan-material for them/call for their re-inclusion into the game. – Renee

      Another part of the Warhammer setting material is Slaanesh, a gross and terrible hermaphroditic chaos god of pleasure and pain. So there’s rape and then making you like the rape, which is nice.

    • Cthulutech: This is a game that has won some awards and enjoyed some commercial success and also includes… lots of rape. Including, I shit you not, rape chairs. Not only is there rape, but there’s rape furniture. Over on RPG.net (a place I generally avoid), someone asked one of the writers what was up with all the rape? Apparently his response went something like “well it’s only, like, 6 pages so that works out to only 2%”.

      SIX. PAGES. Of RAPE.

      That is a weird and creepy amount of detail to put into the details of rape in your setting. For real.

    Mechanical rape

    [This is a category reserved for those tabletop RPGs that actually have a rape mechanic as part of the system. This is a special kind of disturbing above and beyond rape as setting because not only is it part of a game, but it involves a mechanic that theoretically had to be tested and balanced with the rest of the system. Think about just how messed up that is for a second.]

    • Game of Thrones RPG: With the massive amounts of rape that happen in Game of Thrones, it’s not surprising that the licensed RPG would feature rape as well. But does the game really need a rape mechanic? The designers must have thought so. One of the standing orders you can give an army is “Slash and Burn”, which in addition to ruining the countryside will also cause your soldiers to “rape the smallfolk”. Because it’s so important to specify these things mechanically. Or something.
    • FATAL.
    • Vampire (World of Darkness): So we all get how Vampire could be a game pretty much about rape, right? I mean, the setting material specifies that for most vampires, feeding replaces sexual desire. Only there’s all kinds of ways like blood bonding and Domination and other forms of control that can force someone into these situations against their will. I don’t think that was the designer’s intention – especially because the WoD games were pretty targeted towards women when they were initially released. However, there’s a lot of potential for this to get abused at the table.

    Rape, eggs, and rape

    [Sometimes a media property manages to capture all or almost all of the above reasons. These are generally things in which the creators seem unhealthily obsessed with rape, to the point where it’s difficult find aspects of their work that don’t involve rape. This is a special kind of fucked up, because then you get rabid fans who say things like, “well sure it’s got lots of rape, but once you look past all that…”, which is all kinds of horrifying. And often when you say you’d prefer to stick to consuming media without rape, the responses are rather reminiscent of the Monty Python spam sketch. “Well how about the rape, eggs, and rape? That’s not got much rape in it.”]

    • Game of Thrones: Oh man. Where to start. First off let me say that I have read the series excepting the most recent book, and man. GRRM really loves him some rape. You’ve got your “strong female characters” rape (Daenerys). You’ve got unbelievable doses of “how do I make this villain evil — I know — RAPE” from, really, just about all the villains. Especially Gregor Clegane, for whom the first scene in which the reader sees him features him raping a woman literally because he is bored. You’ve also got plenty of “vagina tragedies” rape/assault (Sansa), and a bit of “rape as setting” in GRRM’s descriptions of the countryside after various invading armies have passed through.

      There’s a really, really great look at the many, many, many ways in which Game of Thrones fails at rape here, and a followup post about the rage that criticizing GRRM inspires in a subset of male nerds here.

    • Before Game of Thrones, there was the Sword of Truthnovels, which have an astonishing amount of rape in them. For those keeping score, the female main character, Kahlan, gets assaulted or raped at least once per book. (Strong female characters with a hint of vagina tragedies) Book 2 on features actual, honest-to-god rape camps. (Rape as settings) In Book 1, there are teams of assassins called “quads” who rape their victims, who are always female, before killing them. (Villianous rape) And don’t even get me started on the Mord-Sith. (Strong female characters)

      In fact, it would be accurate to say that every “strong” female protagonist important to the story in the first 5 books either gets raped or has rape established as part of their history. Yikes. (I stopped reading after book 5, but more because that’s when the series turned into The Adventures of Gary Stu The Super Libertarian.)

    • Alan Moore is also a member of the “seriously loves him some rape” club. (ONLY read the first post. Seriously, don’t read the replies. You’ll regret it.) Though in the interest of fairness, I’ll note that the only title of his that I’ve read is Watchmen, which features a pretty prominent rape-as-plot point. (That was, I felt, not well done. Silk Spectre gets raped, only then she kind of likes the guy who raped her and has a kid with him? Um, what?)


    I’d like to thank the other GaW contributors who gave feedback on multiple drafts of this and submitted many great examples. Big thanks especially to Renee, Jessica Hammer, and Filamena Young who let me quote them. I know that there’s bound to be lots that I’m missing, but that’s a whole lot of stuff that I just threw out there and this post is long enough as it is. Still, I hope that this will help to illustrate just how pervasive rape is in geek media.

    Let me end, then, with this last note. To the creators out there – the artists and writers, the designers and publishers – I ask the following. Rape is a real issue that harms real people of all genders and orientations. For the love of god, please take time to really think about including rape in your work. Is rape part of the human experience? Sure. But by contributing to the overwhelming flood of rape that already exists in geek media, the odds are that you’re helping make a bad situation worse. So please ask yourself this – is your freedom to write about/portray rape in your work more important than the feelings of those who are triggered, marginalized, or otherwise harmed by careless depictions of rape in geek media?

    1. Obviously the cultural equation of “woman” with “vagina-having” is problematic, even if the vagina in question is not tragic.


    I’m an occasional game illustrator, and game designer, long-time LARPer, and player of tabletop roleplaying games (mostly indie games). I have a terminal addiction to board games. I also play both PC and console games – mainly RPGs of all stripes, but I do enjoy puzzle games like Katamari as well. My main source of gaming notoriety, however, is the feminist gaming blog Go Make Me a Sandwich. In addition to being a cranky feminist blogger, I am a photographer and somewhat half-assed writer living in the wilds of Canada with a wonderful spouse and two slightly broken cats.


    61 Responses to Geek Media – What’s With All the Rape?

    1. avatar
      May 31, 2012 at 17:28

      I read those Paksenarrion books, too. It’s remarkable how such a good premise that the writer allegedly set out to work with (to depict a by-the-book D&D-type paladin who wasn’t lame) can feel so horribly, horribly fouled by a dose of needless rape. And the premise of that entire sequence was great, too, in terms of the way things work in a D&D-flavored setting; protagonist realizes the only way to save a kingdom is to trade herself as hostage in exchange for the current one the bad guys are holding, receives divine recognition for the selflessness of the act.

      But not before the rape happens.

      It was a borrowed book, took all my restraint not to repeatedly throw it against the wall.

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    3. avatar
      May 31, 2012 at 21:43

      Re: CthulhuTech: I… I… what. *What*.

      I… I /ran/ a CthulhuTech campaign for… something like 10 months. I don’t recall encountering rape anywhere in it. Either it doesn’t come up in the core rules… or I managed to miss it. Completely. o.o

      (Also: it won awards? Really? The setting is great, but the system is abominable. The dice mechanic is so bad it got to where /every single dice roll/ would trigger a cry of “I hate this system!” from my players. When I describe the dice mechanic, I have to keep assuring people that I’m not making it up.)

      Re: Warhammer… Yeah. The way Slaanesh is used works for me (as one of the four great exemplars of evil in the setting), but it’s totally demonstrating “rape as setting”. (And I’ve got other areas of the GW properties that I harp on – such as the lack of female Space Marines.)

      How does your perspective change (if at all) when it’s rape aimed at men, or equal-opportunity rape?

      I’m thinking of the “Alien” movies. The xenomorphs make their victims unwilling and ill-fated participants in their reproduction. At that point it’s not even metaphorical rape – it’s literal rape. And then their victims die in childbirth. We got one such instance in the first movie, and its victim was a man.

      I’m also thinking also of R. Scott Bakker – whose name, I know, isn’t a particularly welcome one in a lot of circles. (I really like his writing, and had a really good time talking to him at a signing, but his writing /is/ problematic, and he’s completely blind to the first rule of holes.) His orc-equivalents and their ilk behave a lot like Whedon’s Reavers, and he’s clearly put a lot of *thought* into their behaviour – what they do, and *why* they do it. And when we see them committing their characteristic atrocities, it’s usually aimed at men – usually warriors they’ve just brought down in battle. (For me, it works – because it’s damned *scary*. Scarier than it would be if they were simply murderous, torturing cannibals.)

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      • avatar
        June 1, 2012 at 09:47

        Though I’m unfamiliar with the way the Chaos God Slaanesh is portrayed in Warhammer fantasy, some of the Warhammer 40k books use Slaanesh really well.

        There are still sexual overtones (but usually played up as genuinely uncomfortable, not particularly enticing), but the portfolio of this particular diety is made to encompass excess in every possible sense, and presents a particular danger to artists and aesthetes; Slaanesh’s influence is shown to drive them to madness in pursuit of inspiration and perfection. It’s actually a good concept for a certain brand of horror, and fits rather naturally into 40k’s baroque and over-the-top flavor.

        That said, most writing for the franchise is still clunky and, guess you could say, “neckbeardy” in general, and the writers would do very well to make an effort to avoid all the gross-for-the-sake-of-gross.

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    4. avatar
      May 31, 2012 at 22:06

      Fantastic post!

      Another data point: Thed, the goddess of rape in Glorantha. Ron Edwards wrote an essay about her: http://adept-press.com/ideas-and-discourse/other-essays/goddess-of-rape/

      I own a lot of Glorantha product that I haven’t read yet, so this was news to me. I’m curious to hear what you think of Ron’s article, though.

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      • avatar
        June 1, 2012 at 15:56

        Buzz: Thanks! I wasn’t aware of the Glorantha example, nor of Ron Edwards’ article. Unfortunately, I can’t read it at work and my internet access at home is still spotty, as I’ve just moved. I’ll have to bookmark it for a later read.

      • avatar
        Grace Annam
        August 7, 2012 at 17:27

        I was thinking of Glorantha and expecting it to be mentioned in the original post, and when it wasn’t, I was going to mention it the comments. But buzz beat me to it and referenced a very interesting article (for Glorantha geeks). Thanks, buzz!

        I used to play a lot of RuneQuest. One of the options a fantasy setting gives us which is denied us in the real world is 99.99% certain ethical green lights, and broos are one of those. They are Chaos creatures, disease-ridden by nature, almost entirely male, which propogate by raping all-and-sundry, with the resulting bouncing broo baby eating its way out. They are all evil (one exception in the whole wide world – details not necessary here), and if you happen to be playing something resembling “good” characters (Orlanth or other Lightbringers, Yelmalio, Storm Bull, etc.) and encounter a broo, then it’s “see broo, kill broo, sterilize anything broo touched in the process”.

        Fun, fun, back then.

        In light of this essay, am now re-thinking broos as an entire SPECIES of rape-credentialed villains. I’m not sure I like the result…

        Unless, perhaps, we make them more like Aliens, such that they can impregnate both people with uteri and people without? In which case the horror is distributed universally… MORE universally? I’m not sure… the Aliens manage to make their implantations as un-rape-like as any bodily violation can be, by avoiding genital contact. But broos rape by forcing their penises into vaginas-or-anuses, which is thus still something women have to deal with differently than men.

        Also, I think the essay buzz linked to, above, is brilliant, and it’s making me reconsider aspects of Glorantha. If I make broos equally horrible to everyone, I suspect that would also evaporate some of the complexity of Thed, the Goddess of Rape, acting to call out how screwed up certain gods and cultures are (including Orlanth’s concept of justice, and including the fact that Thed didn’t invent rape or the cultures which deal with it in screwed-up ways).


        Anyway, thanks for letting me thinking out loud, and here’s an additional data point for the article: broos as a species which must, to maintain their population, reproduce by raping other sentient species, and pretty much any other sentient species.


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    5. avatar
      May 31, 2012 at 22:50

      Not to be contrary, but I’d like to know what wundergeek offers as an alternative. Would she prefer to see all mentions of rape and rape-related things taken out of all games?

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      • avatar
        June 1, 2012 at 05:44

        Why would it need to be a complete removal? Why not just taking a few moments to think, “Hmm, do I REALLY NEED to include this overused cliche here, or will some other horrific and/or perilous situation that ISN’T already everywhere work as well or better?”

        Saying to creators of, say, stereotypical melodramas, “Hey, y’know, maybe you’re tying the damsel to the railroad tracks a lot. Like, ridiculous amounts a lot,” does not mean, “NEVER TIE DAMSELS TO RAILROAD TRACKS EVER AGAIN OR FEEL MY WRATH, PUNY CREATORS!!!” it means, “Y’know, there’s like this sawmill over here, and this bomb factory over here… I’m just sayin’, you have other options you might wanna check out.”

        (This is, of course, leaving aside questions of gender, sexuality, and all that, which are entirely more sticky and complicated than I like to get into.)

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        • avatar
          June 1, 2012 at 09:16

          Why would it need to be a complete removal? Why not just taking a few moments to think, “Hmm, do I REALLY NEED to include this overused cliche here, or will some other horrific and/or perilous situation that ISN’T already everywhere work as well or better?”

          In video games and tabletop games, I would say that “threat of death” a far more overused cliché; and I think that in most instances, there is some degree of thought that goes into deciding whether to include rape or no. I cannot speak for every writer in existence, but as a writer myself, I carefully consider the ramifications of including touchy subject matter in my work.

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          • avatar
            June 1, 2012 at 17:14

            This isn’t some sort of contest to see which cliché is overused more. Rape has baggage that comes with it that other violent crimes often do not. When someone is shot at a bar, our first thought isn’t, what did the victim do to cause the gunman shoot or to disbelieve the wound. Yet, with rape, this happens quite a bit. Likewise, there are many ways a woman can be made strong and quite honestly, rape should be fairly low on the list. Yet, for many content creators, it’s near the top. That really needs to change.

            Maybe instead of getting defensive about your work, perhaps listen to what people are saying and stop acting like something that points out the (over)use of rape as a trope is a call to abolish it from all fiction.

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      • avatar
        June 1, 2012 at 09:09

        Voting my question down into obscurity? That’s hardly conducive to discussion.

        I feel it’s a little weird that I have to validate my statements in response to an article that is presumably supposed to spur discussion, but I am not saying that clichés are the best. What I am asking, however, is how wundergeek would rather see it handled.

        In response to her dismissal of realism in a fantasy setting, she is misunderstanding the meaning of the word in the context. It is not realism in the sense of real world norms, but rather in representing the evils in existence. If murder, theft, genocide, and war are present in a setting, why not rape?

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        • avatar
          June 1, 2012 at 09:35

          It was addressed in the article: The use of rape in these works not bad because it exists, but because it’s used in awful fucking ways.

          Horrendously offensive implications: “I’m gonna show that this female character is strong ’cause she got raped!”

          Complete lack of imagination: “Wanna know how evil my villain is? They raped someone! Ooooh!”

          Total lack of awareness of what it actually is: “Rape = only done by truly evil villains (who probably laugh while doing it) on pure, innocent, helpless victims.”

          And there’s no POSSIBLE way that any of this will annoy or offend the audience, particularly if said audience may be personally acquainted with the reality of sexual assault and the psychology concerning both perpetrators and victims, oh no!

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        • avatar
          June 1, 2012 at 15:54

          Re: downvoting – This has been the first chance I’ve had to check in with this comment thread, honestly. But our comment policy exists for a reason. It’s important to us that GaW comment threads remain a safe space for everybody, and we will use the tools that we need to to make sure those threads stay safe.

          If a side effect is that commenters downvote a comment that they find unhelpful to a conversation into being hidden, I’m still going to stand by that. I have done the “let everyone speak regardless of position” thing on my own blog, and the result was disasterous. Privileging speech over safety means that 1) real people get harmed and 2) no one ever gets to have a productive conversation.

          Re: “realism” – As Mazed said, the reasons why are pretty clearly framed at the beginning of the article, but all of them boil down to one thing: Careless depictions of rape harm real people. Is your freedom to write about rape more important than not harming your audience? If it is, I’d suggest you need to examine your priorities.

        • avatar
          June 1, 2012 at 18:12

          Perhaps it wasn’t your intention, but it came across as a loaded question. You were preemptively defensive (“Not to be contrary, but….”), then lead into a question that could easily be interpreted as implying that wundergeek is against any reference to rape in games while simultaneously suggesting a false dichotomy (lots o’ rape, or absolutely none).

          Proposed alternative: “Is it possible to include rape in a game in an acceptable way? If so, what might it look like?”

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          • avatar
            June 3, 2012 at 04:24

            I was preemptively defensive because I was expecting a needlessly negative response. Can you blame me?

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          • avatar
            June 3, 2012 at 05:58

            Here’s how you could have gotten a positive and enthusiastic response from me, at least:

            “You’re right, this is a problem, but taking all rape out of games isn’t a solution either. What do you think we should do about this?”

            I don’t speak for anyone else on this site, but I think this would have gotten a really positive response and sparked some interesting discussion.

            As it stands, I’m already having that conversation with people who aren’t you. If you think you can put your defensiveness aside, I’d be happy to have you join me. If not, I wish you the best of luck sorting these issues out for yourself.

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          • avatar
            June 3, 2012 at 16:44

            To me, it sounded as though you were purposely trying to elicit a negative response by implying that Wundergeek probably advocates an extreme action–that of removing *all* rape depictions from geek media. Is that not what you were attempting to do? (Serious question–I am not trying to be disrespectful. I have seen many questions worded the way yours was that were specifically designed to make women appear irrational; if this was not your intention than I am quite pleased.) If you wanted more of us to take your question as a serious one rather than one that seems to accuse us of irrationality, simply leaving off the implication that Wundergeek thinks there should be no rape depicted in games and comics would have worked well: “What would Wundergeek offer as a alternatives to the current portrayals of rapes in geek media?” would convey your question without seeming to accuse Wundergeek of being irrationally extreme by implying that Wundergeek wanted NO rape depictions. You could have added “When and in what contexts should rape depictions remain in games, comics, etc.? When should they be removed? What sorts of scenes can achieve some of the same goals without including rape depictions?” I think Wundergeek actually addressed in the original article both your original question and those I’ve posed in this post, which is another reason your question came off as disingenuous and, frankly, trolling to me–perhaps you were skimming and didn’t realize it had been addressed? (Again, serious question–I’m not trying to be rude.) Or maybe you wanted to discuss alternatives in more detail than the article did? In the latter case, asking somewhat more detailed questions rather than going for a very general one that had already been addressed would likely have elicited positive and in-depth responses from others here.

            Would you, in fact, like to discuss some of the above questions more in-depth? Is that what you were trying to achieve? If so, I think we can still do that.

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          • avatar
            June 3, 2012 at 23:03

            There seems to be a habit on this site of reacting to those not voicing absolute agreement with hostility; and while I can understand that feminists and women in general are used to having their opinions dismissed out of hand, I still wish that people would be a little more mature about it.


            “To me, it sounded as though you were purposely trying to elicit a negative response by implying that Wundergeek probably advocates an extreme action–that of removing *all* rape depictions from geek media. Is that not what you were attempting to do? (Serious question–I am not trying to be disrespectful. I have seen many questions worded the way yours was that were specifically designed to make women appear irrational; if this was not your intention than I am quite pleased.) If you wanted more of us to take your question as a serious one rather than one that seems to accuse us of irrationality, simply leaving off the implication that Wundergeek thinks there should be no rape depicted in games and comics would have worked well: “What would Wundergeek offer as a alternatives to the current portrayals of rapes in geek media?” would convey your question without seeming to accuse Wundergeek of being irrationally extreme by implying that Wundergeek wanted NO rape depictions.”

            Based on wundergeek’s views of rape as currently portrayed in the medium, the removal of all rape depictions in medium seemed like something to which she would be amenable. I wasn’t meaning to imply that the woman is stupid, it’s just that that seemed to be a valid conclusion to come to.

            “You could have added “When and in what contexts should rape depictions remain in games, comics, etc.? When should they be removed? What sorts of scenes can achieve some of the same goals without including rape depictions?” I think Wundergeek actually addressed in the original article both your original question and those I’ve posed in this post, which is another reason your question came off as disingenuous and, frankly, trolling to me–perhaps you were skimming and didn’t realize it had been addressed? (Again, serious question–I’m not trying to be rude.) Or maybe you wanted to discuss alternatives in more detail than the article did? In the latter case, asking somewhat more detailed questions rather than going for a very general one that had already been addressed would likely have elicited positive and in-depth responses from others here.”

            I could have said a lot of things differently, but agonizing over the phrasing of a question is not the type of thing I tend to do on the internet. I’m fairly blunt; I ask what I want to know, and the thought of dressing the question up in a different type of language didn’t occur to me as something integral. Clearly that assumption was naive.

            “Would you, in fact, like to discuss some of the above questions more in-depth? Is that what you were trying to achieve? If so, I think we can still do that.”

            Sure. What I’d really like to see are examples of rape depiction done well, so that I can have some sort of frame of reference.

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          • avatar
            June 4, 2012 at 15:33

            Funeralparty: You said, amongst other things – “I wasn’t meaning to imply that the woman is stupid, it’s just that that seemed to be a valid conclusion to come to.”

            I’m sorry, I’m stuck back at the part where you refer to me as THE WOMAN.

            This is the antithesis of respectful discourse.

      • avatar
        June 1, 2012 at 15:41

        What I want is for creators of geek media to stop using careless depictions of rape, because that’s what all of these are – careless. Rape is part of the human experience, and it can be written about in ways that aren’t careless and stupid and offensive. But sitting here right now, I honestly can’t think of a single piece of geek media I have ever consumed that has managed to portray rape in a way that isn’t careless and utterly cliche.

        • avatar
          June 1, 2012 at 17:03

          I’ve been 95% with you on this the whole way – but the comment above highlights the 5% that you don’t have me on. I think you are absolutely right that rape is overused, misused, carelessly used, etc. as a device. But the way I read your comment above, it sounds like you’re saying “It is obvious that Joss Whedon, GRRM, and Elizabeth Moon were careless in their depictions of rape. In fact, although I can imagine it’s possible to depict it in a way that isn’t careless, I’ve never seen it done.”

          If that’s what you mean to say, okay, you are entitled to believe it and express it but I’d still like to offer a pushback. Can you really say that none of those creators thought long and carefully about using rape in their stories? I’m not claiming to know that they DID, but can any of us really say we know that they didn’t? I think the point I’m trying to make is, I can imagine a scenario where a creator might do a whole boatload of careful, thoughtful due diligence on how best to depict a particular thing a certain way, and then honestly choose to craft a scenario that includes rape as – in their opinion – the best and possibly only way to give the depiction the gut-wrenching brutal ugliness it needs.

          Hey, I hate that, too. It bothers me. It disgusts me. I have not been sexually violated, but I’ve been physically assaulted by loved ones, I’ve had parts of my soul ripped out of me against my will. I can imagine what a human being might experience being raped. And there’s nothing that disgusts me more.

          MAYBE Elizabeth Moon feels that way too. MAYBE she took an incredible amount of care with how she crafted her story choices. MAYBE she came to the conclusion that her protagonist needed to endure the worst possible brutally terrible violation in order to metaphorically transcend into the next phase of her character. MAYBE it wasn’t the gang-rape that gave her the magical powers. MAYBE it was her fortitude and her agency in the aftermath. (I’m using this all as example because I’ve not read those stories).

          Maybe, on the other hand, Moon just slapped rape in there without much thought.

          Or maybe Moon would tell us she believes she was really thoughtful and careful and many of us would say “you were not careful enough.” And that would be human, too.

          But we can’t say we know what was in the creators’ heads. Or, we can, but we would be wrong.

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          • avatar
            June 1, 2012 at 18:36

            Understand that I’m approaching this as a content creator. My education is in Fine Arts, and one of the first things that gets drummed into your head in art school is that *you cannot control how people will read your work*. People WILL bring their own baggage, and you have to own that. You can’t handwave and say “well that’s not what I intended”. That’s not to say that you have to be responsible for every possible interpretation, but you have to work hard to make sure that the message you want to convey is (mostly) the message people get.

            It’s important to not get trapped into looking at this at a creator level. Is it possible that some of these rape depictions were thoughtfully, but poorly, done? Sure! But when you pull back and look at the big picture, the overwhelming preponderance of rape against women in geek media points to carelessness by a lot of creators. It’s SUCH a tired cliche, so why do so many creators still jump right to rape as a source of female character adversity? What does that say about the subculture that they’re creating for?

            And what does that say about the creators? Because art DOES NOT spring from a magical thought vacuum. It DOES NOT exist in a holy and magical realm from which all ideas come from and are received by the creator as things external to themselves. It comes from the brains of real people with real baggage living in the real world.

            So sure, it’s possible that some of the creators I’ve called out here might have put a great deal of thought into their depictions of rape. That doesn’t invalidate my criticism that I read them as careless, nor does it speak to the fact of the OVERWHELMING number of rape depictions speaks to a certain aggregate level of carelessness from creators of geek media overall.

          • avatar
            June 1, 2012 at 19:04

            You’re right. I’m just trying to push back on the little bits where I see gray areas, because that’s how really strong points are proven to be as strong as they appear to be.

            Plus, even though I am thoroughly looking at this from my limited human POV as a consumer of media, I can’t help but also look at it thoroughly as a creator of media, because I am one, and I take my responsibility seriously, and i want to be careful, and sensitive, and avoid cliches and handwaving. I want to tell good human stories that are full of conflict, adversity, and truth – which means they’re going to be full of people doing terrible, senseless, disgusting, vile things and having those things done to them. Yes, creators have a responsibility to avoid wielding those powerful tools carelessly. But we also ought to be able to have a reasonable discourse about where the boundaries of carelessness lie. Because if we say “I know what carelessness looks like when I see it, and I’m right, and if you don’t agree with where I draw my line then you’re on the wrong side” … well then we begin to sound like the very people who tend to want the world to look like a neatly-ordered Evangelical right-wing theocracy run by powerful white men.

            Let’s not argue like they argue.

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      • avatar
        June 1, 2012 at 23:12

        It was pretty clear in the article that the author was not advocating the removal of all mentions of rape. It’s pretty annoying how often people assume that “we would like to see less of A and more of B” means “A is horrible! It shouldn’t appear anywhere! Anyone who puts A in a game is an awful person!”

        If you’re putting careful thought into whether and how you depict rape in your writing, you’re doing pretty much what the author is advocating in the article.

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    6. avatar
      June 1, 2012 at 03:45

      I have to say that I don’t like how funeralparty got a “-1″ simply for asking a question. Now mind you, wundergeek did not set out to offer an alternative or a solution to the issue, merely to draw attention to it. It’s not her responsibility to say how this should be fixed. That wasn’t the point of her article. She simply says “this happens”. But you really shouldn’t slap someone down just for asking a question. If people don’t ask questions, you can’t have a dialogue or a discussion.

      I have read or played in several of the items on this list. Sometimes the rape fully registered with me and sometimes it didn’t. You can’t *not* see the rape in GRRM’s ASOIF novels, but I must have somehow missed the “rape chair” while reading the CthulhuTech book. Half-Orcs in D&D? Yeah, in the back of my mind I knew they were almost exclusively the children of rape. But when someone clearly points out that this action is prevalent enough in the setting to spawn an entire race of people, it kind of punches you in the gut. Hard.

      I’m having a hard time wording my thoughts here. As I said, I did not perceive the rape in some of the examples in the article above until they were pointed out to me by this article. The certainly doesn’t mean the rape was not there though. Just that it didn’t really register for me at the time. It is very difficult to argue perception. Different people can have very different reactions to the same thing, and both reactions are (usually) valid. To use an example from the article, the image of the lizardmen and female elf can definitely be seen as a gang rape. When I saw it, I thought “Yeah, I can totally see that. The bound female elf, the one holding her head back, the snake. That’s rape”. But I can understand someone saying “No, that’s not an image of rape”, just as I would understand the outrage from someone who does see it as rape to the person who doesn’t.

      Was the artist trying to imply rape with that image? I really don’t know. Maybe, but maybe not. Let me share an anecdote. For my final art show in university I made a Lewis & Clarke style sketchbook journal of an alien world and it’s flora and fauna. During the show, when everything was finished and on display in front of lots of people, one of my professors said “You know all those aliens look like upside-down penises, right?” And they totally did. I couldn’t believe it. I had worked on this thing for months and only just now, after someone pointed it out to me, did I see that my section of the show was, in fact, filled with drawing of erect cocks. It was terrible. So I’m not going to pass judgement on the artist of that lizardman piece by saying they knew exactly was they were implying. Perhaps they didn’t notice it until after it was published and are now kicking themselves for it.

      I guess my point is this. Sometimes the rape is unmistakable for what it is. Rape. Other times, the creator may not have intended the thing to be seen as rape, but it can certainly be interpreted that way. I think that authors, illustrators, and game designers need to be aware of how their creations will be viewed and make sure there is as little ambiguity as possible. They need to be sensitive and understand that different people will see their work in different ways.

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      • avatar
        June 1, 2012 at 16:40

        FWIW I don’t think we can even tell who gives out the -1s – it reflects a sense of “not awesome” on the part of many different people, not any kind of party line. But I think the reason that particular comment got negative reactions is because I suspect most of the people here have had people ask questions like that in bad faith on a pretty regular basis. I think it’s an awesome question, but the reality is that if you want to talk productively to women who talk about gender online, you need to be aware of the conversational defaults and differentiate yourself from them. (Notice, for example, that your post is getting upvotes and not downvotes.)

        Intent / meaning / semiotics / cultural patterns is SUCH A HARD TOPIC and I spend a lot of time trying to get my mind around it. I’m working on a ridiculous analogy to high school but I think it needs some more time to gel. Until then, I just want to say that I’m all on board with the “people will see things in different ways” BUT I believe that it’s a Family Feud situation! The things that people are most likely to see are mediated by culture and shared experience. Sure you CAN see anything you want to, but the things you’re LIKELIEST to see are not just up to you-the-viewer, they’re culturally mediated. Hmm, maybe I need to write a Family Feud analogy instead.

        Also, your story is hilarious, though I’m sure it was not hilarious to you at the time.

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      • avatar
        June 1, 2012 at 16:51

        re: penis aliens: it happens to the best of us

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      • avatar
        June 2, 2012 at 15:27

        That’s a wonderful story.

        Funeralparty wasn’t just asking a question. He was being deliberately challenging (note the strawman: “Would she prefer to see all mentions of rape and rape-related things taken out of all games?”), but phrasing his challenge as an innocent, rational question.

        This means that, if he’s challenged back, he can say: “Hey, I was just asking a question!”.

        It’s a very effective strategy. You see it all the time in feminist discussions, almost always from men, to challenge what’s been said. We should call it out when it happens, I think.

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        • avatar
          June 2, 2012 at 21:42

          Well, actually Graham, I was just asking a question. I was legitimately curious what the alternative would be. I don’t read these articles solely to be “deliberately challenging”. If I was wanting to troll people, there are way better ways to do it than taking the time to think about and posting a question. I could just call people offensive names.

          Now, we see your behaviour all the time in feminist discussions, from both men and women, when someone perceived as the enemy is shouted down by the mob, and painted as the bad guy. Everyone then proceeds to give each other congratulatory back-pats, and nothing is learned by any parties involved. That is not a sensible way to act if you want to communicate with other human beings.

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          • avatar
            June 2, 2012 at 21:52

            “That is not a sensible way to act if you want to communicate with other human beings.”

            Putting up false dichotomies is also not a sensible way to act if you want to communicate with other human beings. It maybe acceptable elsewhere but the downvotes should have been an indication that they are not acceptable to the community here.

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        • avatar
          June 4, 2012 at 11:13

          Unfortunately, my “penis aliens” were even worse than that. How I didn’t see it until someone pointed them out, I don’t know.

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    7. avatar
      June 1, 2012 at 09:23

      That’s something that has been on my mind a lot lately. I didn’t come across some of the examples before (Cthulhutech WTF?), but Game of Thrones, while I love the series, really rubbed me the wrong way with Daenerys. For pretty much the whole first season, I sat there and thought: Wow. What a textbook example of a woman in an abusive relationship and the worst thing is that it isn’t intended that way. Enough of the woman falls in love with rapist-trope already.
      I came across this article discussing rape in RPG that I found an interesting read.

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    8. avatar
      June 1, 2012 at 18:00

      Half-orcs were left out of 4e when originally released because of concerns about the rape-based background. (I don’t know if they made it bad in since.) Also interesting is that the most iconic half-elf in D&D, Tanis Half-Elven, is the result of a rape. (At least in the original trilogy. I’m told a much later book retconned into consensual sex.)

      I would have left FATAL off the list, on the grounds that it’s FATAL. Most gamers won’t have heard of it, and those that have most won’t have actually seen it, and almost everyone who is aware of it treats it like the pathetic and embarrassing view into the author’s sexist, racist, ahistoric, and generally bigoted mindset that it is. It’s the creepy fan-fic of RPGs.

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      • avatar
        June 1, 2012 at 20:17

        FATAL is one of those things that if you know about it, it’s because someone brought it up as an example of something irredeemably awful and worthy only of abject mockery. That’s the only reason it even gets attention.

        Re: The rape-as-setting in D&D: If you, like many, have grown tired of this, check out Eberron, one of the official campaign settings. For the most part, rape-as-setting is completely avoided for the core races, as the half-elves there are an actual species unto themselves (the natural result of two races who always seem to find one another irresistible living together for thousands of years), and half-orcs are simply a natural result of having an entire province of the main continent filled with mixed human-and-orc tribes that don’t tend to fight amongst themselves. When this setting was published back during the 3rd Edition days, it was such a tremendous relief to see that departure from what, until then, had been a conspicuously uncomfortable element of the core game.

        This is a bit tangential to the subject, but Eberron is pretty good from a racial perspective, too, as it avoids casting most of your standard “monstrous” races as being inherently evil. There are some stereotypes that might reflect caricaturized real-world cultures (your mileage can vary on whether or not it’s in poor taste), but reasons are given for why they are how they are; goblinoids are culturally militaristic due to most of their history being chronicled by warrior-poets, orcs tend to gravitate away from city-living due to a strong-running druidic religion, etc. It’s a damn sight better than your usual “orcs are always violent and barbaric”, “dark elves are always malicious, scheming, and fraticidal”, etc.

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      • avatar
        June 2, 2012 at 16:50

        Half-Orcs were brought into 4e in PHB 2, but with no implications that they are the products of rape. By the vague default flavor text Half-Orcs can be produced by Orc/human interbreeding but most half-orcs are from self-sustaining half-Orc communities with two half-Orc parents.

        Also to beat a particular drum of mine, many many settings have versions of Orcs such that consensual sex between humans and orcs is an entirely believable occurrence. (there’s also that great OotS where it turns out that the “unfortunate” background of the half-Orc character is that his parents were a super-duper lovey-dovey couple.)

        You can have your half-orcs without the rape!

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    9. avatar
      June 2, 2012 at 01:30

      Promotheus and the Alien movies are too me good examples on how to use rape in fiction

      The themes of the Alien movies is rape, motherhood and pregnancy, and I personally think the Alien movies handle rape in a good way. (By Alien movies I mean the good ones, I don’t count the ones that sucked. ) The Alien movies only deals with violent rape by a unknown attacker, yet… I think I can forgive the movies for that.

      I think Alien movies handle rape in a good way for a number of reasons:

      1: It is used raped a creative ways. It is not lazy writing. Pare is used in multiple creative ways. Both the facehugger impregnation, as well as the chest buster coming out are rape analogies, and the latter is also a childbirth analogy. Even the Xenomorphs bite attack, when the penis like mouth penetrated someone flesh is also a rape analogy. That damn scary, and damn creative.

      2: Being raped by a Xenomorph is horrible. It is not sexy or sexualized.

      3: It not used only against women. Everyone in a Alien move fears getting raped. And everyone gets raped.

      4: There no victim blaming. Raping is something horrible that happens to someone when there is a rapist, a Xenomorph, around, not because the victim is promiscuous, drunk, “deseve it” or is pretty. The one held guilty for the rape is always the rapist, the Xenomorph, never the victim.

      5: The rape scenes always have focus on how horrible it is for the victim. Not how much the perpetrators enjoys it.

      6: It stresses that anyone getting raped should have right to decides what happens with their body and any fetus resulting from the rape, and trying to deny them that right is a horrible and inhuman thing to do to them.

      7: No one is spared from rape because they are competent or a good person. Rape can happen to anyone. The one that get away are lucky, not better then anyone else.


      I’m not saying that the Alien movies treatment of rape is perfect. I’m sure that people will during the discussion will point out examples showing that there are problematic elements that how the Alien movies handle rape as well.

      I just wanted to point out that in some ways Alien is a rape themed movie that handles rape well. I also wanted to show that there is good way you can handle rape in fiction.

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    10. avatar
      June 2, 2012 at 23:36

      I love Wundergeek’s original post and agree with most of it. I agree with many of the comments that she’s made to clarify, too.

      I want Wundergeek’s point to win. I want the premise of her argument to affect people and help change some hearts and minds. I support the gist of what this article seeks to illuminate – not to mention I REALLY support this site and its mission overall.

      I will go to my grave continuing to advocate for the justice and equality issues this site is advocating. I will keep doing my best to use my privilege to try to end my privilege.

      THAT is why, instead of just saying, “Yeah, what she said”, I choose to push back on the bits where I think potential opponents might be able to jump in and hurt the argument.

      And, although I really have no idea what Funeralparty’s real motives are, I don’t see any obviously nefarious tactics or false dichotomies in his comments. So there’s at least a possibility that he is motivated similarly to what I wrote above. Maybe he asked that first question honestly, hoping to discover ways to handle things better. Maybe trying to come up with more ways to do it better is a good way to make the original point have some impact on the future.

      If we’re better than the trolls and the narrow-minded majority of our male-gazey fellow geeks, let’s work hard to avoid their tactics. Let’s try to avoid assuming nefarious tactics just because someone worded a question in a way that wasn’t brilliantly clear. And really, let’s ask ourselves if this voting system is really a good thing to employ, since what it really boils down to is that it allows voices of dissent to be shunned and belittled simply by the will of a more powerful majority. Does the fact that most of us here on GaW are the dissenting minority being belittled in the larger geek-culture make it cool for us to treat people that way here simply because we can?

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      • avatar
        June 3, 2012 at 02:17


        Funeralparty’s question has been asked many times before and had been addressed in the text of the post. Downvoting lets some of us say that we don’t really find the question helpful to discussion without removing the question completely. The question stayed around for those who wanted to see it and, personally, I’d rather be able to downvote it than explain for the 100th time why it wasn’t a great question to ask. To frame that as being narrow-minded is, in my opinion, a rather privileged view.

        Instead of attacking downvotes, perhaps you, HyveMynd, and Funeralparty could have stepped back for a second and asked why it received the down votes. I would have gladly told you why I did, and it’s the reason I stated above. This is not a unique or clever question and it’s one that has been answered many times before. In addition, it was asked in a rather aggressive manner and one that did not hint to me any attempt or desire to understand, but rather just to argue a point.

        As pointed out by others, Wundergeek said in her post that she wasn’t asking for a complete removal of all rape scenes from everything ever. She asked content creators to question whether or not their newest depiction of rape was something that was really needed, given the harm it can do to people.

        So here’s a question I have for you. Why is it that when women who speak with authority about a topic they know pretty well, you frame it as being the same as trollish behavior?

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        • avatar
          June 3, 2012 at 04:51

          I’m going to answer your question first, Tracy, before reading and potentially replying to Wundergeek’s comment. I hope it makes sense for me to do it this way. My intent is clarity (and respecting your question enough not to mash it in with other potential questions).

          So, here is what you asked me: “Why is it that when women who speak with authority about a topic they know pretty well, you frame it as being the same as trollish behavior?”

          My response:

          First, I don’t know that all of the people who commented on or downvoted Funeralparty’s comments have been women. I suspect not, especially since a user named Graham is in the mix. In any case, to me it doesn’t matter. The idea that it was specifically women who were speaking with authority never crossed my mind in this conversation. We’re all people, and we can all speak with at least a little authority about how rape in art and literature affects us. MY point in all this is, I feel like you’ve labeled me with a bias that isn’t present in my comments and certainly not in my intentions.

          Second, I don’t intend to claim that speaking with authority – regardless of the gender identification of the speaker – is the same as trollish behavior. But I think that a few of the language choices and tactics that we’ve used to dismiss comments like Funeralparty’s are not conducive to our efforts to be better than that.

          Also, regarding downvotes. I understand WHY people would downvote such comments. I’m not attacking anyone’s right to downvote, and I’m not attacking the policy overall – I’m questioning it, yes. The policy itself is troubling to me, but I support the site’s choice to do it. Please don’t assume attack is my intent.

          What all this comes down to for me is that I’m trying to be a voice that says, “Hey, I support this. I love what you’re doing. I am a reasonable, progressive human being who is listening, paying attention, very willing to take criticism and who recognizes I am living my life on the lowest difficulty setting and is dedicated to trying to level the playing field in whatever ways I can. I’m on your side. But in this community that I support and want to see flourishing, there are still some things that get written and some tactics that get used which give me pause. And that doesn’t mean I think I’m right and anyone else is wrong, but that I think it is worth asking questions.

          But you know what? Yes, me doing that IS probably an inadvertent expression of my privilege. Because although I’m not intending to say “Hey I bet you never thought of these questions – so I’ll ask them”, I can see how that might be what I’m actually doing without intending it, and that is a bit asshattish of me.

          I’ll keep listening.

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          • avatar
            June 3, 2012 at 05:08

            “And really, let’s ask ourselves if this voting system is really a good thing to employ, since what it really boils down to is that it allows voices of dissent to be shunned and belittled simply by the will of a more powerful majority.”

            Down votes mean nothing of the sort. They mean “I do not agree with this.” You reframe them into something else entirely that is not merely a question about whether or not we should have down votes. Also, I’m pretty sure there were other dissenting opinions that had no down votes.

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          • avatar
            June 3, 2012 at 06:07

            Yes, I should have avoided that “what it really boils down to” part. I apologize. I have no right to say that IS what it does. I should have said – and meant to say – that’s what it felt like to me when I saw it in action.

            In any case, thanks for keeping me working on this stuff

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      • avatar
        June 3, 2012 at 02:19

        Mick: The important thing to remember here is: our house, our rules. There was a lot of discussion that went into what the shape of GaW would be before we started it – our comment policy isn’t something that was constructed on a whim. Some of us have experience running/moderating large online communities. For me, trying to moderate comment threads on my own blog was an experience in and of itself with the amount of traffic it came to receive. So there’s a lot of experience in dealing with these issues that went into constructing the comment policy.

        The important thing – the MOST important thing – is that Gaming as Women is supposed to be a safe space; not just for commenter, but for contributors as well! This is NOT a democracy, we are NOT obligated to give anyone freedom of speech. We are here to promote conversations about women in gaming that are 1) productive and 2) not harmful to the participants.

        In this specific instance, funeralparty is coming into our house and using derailing tactics. They might be well-intentioned, and certainly the content isn’t malicious or vitriolic or harmful. But the passive-aggressiveness and false dichotomies that are being offered in those comments that are being downvoted aren’t just unhelpful or irrelevant – they’re actively distracting to the conversation.

        Do I think funeralparty is intentionally trolling? Probably not. But I have learned through painful and extensive experience that giving such derailing tactics the benefit of the doubt harms the conversation and ultimately silences people. Before I started getting mod-happy on my own blog, I got emails ALL THE TIME from people who wanted to comment but didn’t see the point in engaging with the derailers who were sucking all of the oxygen out of the conversation.

        Giving regular users the power to flag comments that they see as counter-productive is an important part of helping the people who are usually marginalized out of these conversations to have the power to make their voices heard. It’s my hope that commenters who find their comments hidden due to downvotes would take this as an instructive experience in how to present dissenting views in ways that are respectful and not derailing. We’re not a hive-mind that demands consensus; we welcome respectful dissent. But hard experience has shown that heavy moderation is required to keep the kinds of conversations we’re trying to promote here from devolving into internet poo-flinging contests full of derailing, defensiveness, strawmen, and silencing tactics.

        • avatar
          June 3, 2012 at 05:05

          Thank you, that clarifies things immensely. I completely support what your priorities are, I want the best for this community, and you keep doing what you do.

          Honestly, I live with enough “Our world, our rules” philosophies in my real life, and I just walked away from religion for pretty much the same approach. I understand where you’re coming from, I support your right to do this thing any way you feel is best. But I’ve got an inborn need to poke at any group/community/institution that holds to an “our site, our rules” philosophy. So I think I’ll keep reading and sharing your articles and supporting you from the wings, but I imagine it’ll be best for me to stop commenting because I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it without poking. And I don’t want this to turn into yet another place where I do that.

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        • avatar
          June 4, 2012 at 00:41

          I agree with Mick here, actually. The downvoting comments is a bit odd. It looks as though any unpopular comments can be voted out of site by three people.

          Moderation is good. But I’d like it to be actual moderation: that is, derailing comments get deleted. It sends a much clearer message and it feels fairer.

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          • avatar
            June 4, 2012 at 01:44

            Please, from now on, everybody refrain from discussing the site features and moderation structures. If necessary, they will be discussed privately, but they’re not up for public debate.

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          • avatar
            June 4, 2012 at 03:13

            Your house, your rules. Got it.

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    11. avatar
      June 4, 2012 at 13:20

      I think the Xenomorph rape analogy Elin brings up is a decent one, though I always saw it more as a horrific analogy of pregnancy. Or cancer. Part of the reasons those movies are so terrifying is that the chestburster development and “birth” can represent a lot of different things.

      Granted I’ve only done the Firefly “circuit” once and haven’t made an exhaustive study of the show, but I see similarities between the Xenomorphs in the Alien franchise and the Reavers in Firefly. I’m obviously seeing this from a cis-male perspective (since that’s what I am) and other people with different perspectives may see it differently. I never got the sense though, that the Firefly Reavers targeted any specific group of people; they raped, killed, and ate people irregardless of race, gender, or ability. Just like escaping the Xenomorphs, you just kind of have to be lucky.

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    13. avatar
      June 5, 2012 at 18:42

      You know what would really help make Lara Croft a more interesting, three-dimensional character? Rape! http://penny-arcade.com/report/editorial-article/tomb-raider-throws-rape-assault-and-a-hostile-environment-at-lara-croft-to I guess it was nice of Crystal Dynamics to spend millions of dollars to prove your point about lazy, insulting, clueless use of rape? *headdesk*

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      • avatar
        June 6, 2012 at 09:47

        Yeah, watching that trailer made me pretty uncomfortable. I felt like I was watching torture porn or something. Maybe it was the realism of the characters (she’s not the cartoony low-polygon Laura anymore) or the rapid succession of violent scenes. To be fair to the creators, we don’t know how much time elapses in the game between those cut scenes. Maybe it is more like a hard boiled story were we are shown short scenes of violence only after long intervals. I don’t know. Mostly for me, it was her voice; she sounded incredibly weak and that just served to ramp up the “torture porn” aspect for me.

        But on the other hand, would I have felt the same way if it were a male character in those exact situations? Honestly, I don’t think so. For whatever reason, I think we have a stronger reaction when we see women in these sorts of violent situations than men. Why this is, I don’t know. I am certainly not defending the “rape them to make them strong” trope, but is it possible to show this level of violence against women without making people uncomfortable? I’m leaning towards no.

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        • avatar
          June 6, 2012 at 15:54

          (Alan: This builds on early gameplay trailers that they had released at last year’s E3. It’s unfortunate to see that the sexual violence that was merely implicit at the time has been made much more overt.)

          HyveMind: Part of the awfulness is the expressed intent behind the game’s developers. Lara Croft is known as a strong female character. They want to explore how she became strong, so how are they doing that? By making her the victim of extreme brutal and physical violence! Because that’s how women become strong, apparently. So for me, my discomfort isn’t just seeing these awful things happen to Lara. It’s knowing that the developers are perpetuating YET ANOTHER instance of the “rape creates strong female characters” narrative and that they’re doing so ON PURPOSE. I mean, can’t we have strong female characters who are allowed to be strong on their own merits for god’s sake?

      • avatar
        June 6, 2012 at 17:05

        I have an honest question. At a few points in this thread, and particularly since the Lara Croft trailer came into it, I keep having a thought pop into my head that is born out of my own history of familial violence and how I’ve emerged from it. I realize, as I admitted earlier in the thread, that physical and emotional abuse by parents is not the same as rape – but it is still the closest thing I have in my own cis-male experience from which to draw.

        Anyhow, I’d welcome input from anyone who wants to engage on this. We can take it to some other forum if it seems off-topic or makes anyone uncomfortable. I don’t want to push my own agenda, I just want to talk, listen, and learn.

        This is the thing that keeps popping into my head. While it is clear, in my opinion, that overall the premise of Wundergeek’s post is true – that there is far too much rape and related violence being used in geek culture, and that it often gets used apparently without much forethought or care to shorthand the various character & setting traits that Wundergeek covers in the OP. But in the case of the “rape makes a woman strong” trope, when we focus down from the broad generality to specific examples I keep running into this voice in my head that asks “Is it the rape that makes the character strong, or is it the inner-strength that makes the rape endurable?”

        Now, again – I agree that in general it happens too often and is overall a hamfisted trope. But regardless of whether the creator of the thing was being careless or thoughtless, and even if it could be demonstrated that the creator was actually trying to suggest that a rape is what gave a character hir strength, are we bound as audience to accept that interpretation?

        Let’s use the Lara Croft trailer as an example. It is disturbing. It affected me. And reading the creators’ explanation of their approach, I’m not really thrilled with their take on it, although I guess they did some due diligence and put thought into it. But in any case, even with the lens of Wundergeek’s post very much strapped over my eyes, my mind wasn’t seeing “rape will make her strong”. My mind sees “she has so much inner-strength that even a litany of the worst crap that a brute male world can throw at her will not stop her from becoming the person she will be.”

        The violence isn’t the mother of her strength. The violence is a test, a temper, a proof, perhaps. But not the thing that births the person who is subject to the violence.

        I promise, I’m not asking for all of you to alter your interpretation of that narrative to match with mine. Because obviously it can be interpreted as a rape-causes-strength trope. But my ultimate question is, MUST it be interpreted that way? If my mind sees it from a different angle, am I missing a key aspect of the overall problem?

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    19. avatar
      June 28, 2012 at 06:37

      I am sorry I’ve dragged my heels on this – I was loath to post on this topic – it seems both useless and insulting to the Original Poster to simply jump up-n-down, waving my hand and crying “I agree.” However, I will stick my hand up…

      Rape is a big, big trigger for me – I personally will not play in any game that includes it, either overtly or wrapped in metaphors.

      Why? Because it’s about degrading and dehumanizing a person, in a way that simply killing them is not (Same with torture – which I will not play either).

      As for realism, I am a great fan – I will happily debate the penetrating power of a Welsh longbow vs that of a Mongol horse-bow, the cavitation effects of bullets, or whether female breastplates need bulges. But I find it ludicrous when the rape-fans who are obsessed with ‘realism’ will dress female warriors in chainmail bikinis in 30 centimetres of snow. Interestingly, they are often the same people, thus intimating that ‘realism’ is code for ‘male fantasy.’

      Seriously, the realism of rape is a nightmare of unbelievably horrendous proportions for the woman/man who is raped – I honestly doubt that I’d trust the person who thought that including it made a game ‘gritty,’ ‘edgy’ or ‘fun,’

      And as for torture – if I thought that was ‘fun,’ I’d have joined the CIA!

      But to answer wundergeek’s question of “Why all the rape?” I could answer, “To keep us out of the boys’ sandbox.”

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