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Penny Arcade, T. Hunt, and Rape Jokes

I want to preface this post by saying everyone messes up.  We all say things without thinking.  We say things that are hurtful, offensive, or just plain stupid.  To me, what’s important is what happens next.  Do we try to listen and understand and decide whether or not to be more mindful in the future?  Do we get defensive?  Do we go on the attack?

Last week, Tarol Hunt (creator of the Goblins webcomic) posted on Twitter:

I’ve gotten laid before, but I’ve never gotten laid using only the power of hypnosis. But one day I will. Oh yes, I will.

As most anyone could have predicted, there was backlash to the idea — even in jest – that gosh, wouldn’t it be nice to have sex without having to worry about that silly old consent business?  Because a disgusting number of people genuinely believe consent is nothing but an obstacle to be overcome by any means necessary.

Hunt followed up by explaining how it was just a joke, and you can’t really hypnotize someone to force them to have sex against their will.  Also, “…hypnosis + sex = rape. This is true in the same way that killing NPCs in WoW = murder.

My clueless.  Let me show you it.

The thing is, pretty much everyone got that this was meant as a joke.  I don’t think anyone believed Hunt was seriously planning to become a hypnorapist.  The fact that it’s a joke isn’t the point.

From what I can tell, he did start listening and trying to understand.  He apologized to anyone he offended in a blog post a few days later, and acknowledged that he was being insensitive.  But he also kept up the defensive “no person on the planet has ever been forced into sex via hypnosis” bit, and brought up questions like why his hypnosis joke was triggering but not the rapist character from his comic?  (Answer: the rapist character doesn’t make rape into a joke, or feed into the attitude that consent is an irksome obstacle to be overcome.)

His second blog post suggests, to me, that he’s working on it.  He’s still stumbling, but I think he’s trying to listen and understand.

Penny Arcade posted a comic last August in which they referenced slaves “being raped to sleep by Dickwolves.”  Once again, there was backlash.  Once again, the immediate response was, “It’s just a joke,” with an added helping of “You’re stupid to be offended” as seen in their follow-up comic: It’s possible you read our cartoon and became a rapist as a direct result…

They didn’t get it.  Unlike Hunt, Penny Arcade had zero interest in understanding why people were upset.  Instead, they promptly turned around and began selling Dickwolves T-shirts and pennants.  Essentially, they declared open season on those who felt offended by humor about rape, and their supporters gleefully jumped into the fray.

Folks like TeamRape on Twitter were upset that the mean people were trying to censor Penny Arcade’s Freedom of Speech.  (A PA blog post notes that this is bullshit.  “[S]he is not censoring us, she has not stripped away our freedom of speech.”)  DickWolvington (account now deleted) attacked rape survivors, demanding proof they were really raped.  PA continued to make a joke of it all, on Twitter and elsewhere.  There’s more.  Timeline here if you’re interested.

I don’t believe PA intended to offend or hurt anyone with the original comic.  But once people began saying, “Hey, this isn’t cool,” PA’s response was a big old “Fuck you.”  Having been told that people were upset by the comic, PA deliberately set out to do it again.

Everyone messes up.  Everyone, sooner or later, says something that offends another person.  When that happens, you have choices.  You can assume that person is an idiot who just likes being offended, and mock them for it.  Or you can try to listen and understand why this person took offense.  Maybe you’ll agree with them, maybe you won’t.

Personally, I find Hunt’s “joke” more distasteful than PA’s original comic.  But PA’s response has been despicable, ignorant, and deliberately hurtful.

If you’re talking about rape, even as a joke, and someone confronts you about it, you might consider:

To Penny Arcade, I say no, your comic did not magically transform readers into rapists.  But your actions did encourage people to mock and disbelieve rape survivors.  You encouraged people to joke about rape, about the concerns of people who have been raped and people fighting to end it.  You belittled people who are damn tired of rape being treated as nothing but a joke.

Thanks for making things that much harder for rape survivors, and for those of us doing our damnedest to try to put an end to rape.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Comments

rikibeth
Feb. 21st, 2011 05:48 pm (UTC)
Re: some of my words may be triggering to others, although I hope not offensive
That's the thing where it makes me have trouble interacting with the narrative the way I think the writers would have wanted; I THINK it was meant humorously, and MAYBE also to say that the character is on the unscrupulous side, but given the rest of the context I think they were going for "likable rogue," but I reacted to it so emphatically negatively that I couldn't see why the rest of the characters were tolerating him at all, let alone trusting him to the level that I perceived them trusting him. It was akin to an obvious technical error killing my suspension of disbelief, but with an extra layer of icky on top.

And it's in the first episode.
reannon
Feb. 21st, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
Re: some of my words may be triggering to others, although I hope not offensive
I think actually they weren't going for likable rogue, I think they really did want to make Owen a bastard. The good thing about that show was that no one was truly a "good guy," and even Owen wasn't wholly a "bad guy," but was truly an unlikable person. There's someone in every organization like him, and that creepy pheromone spray/sci-fi roofie was the direct key for us to hate him.
rikibeth
Feb. 21st, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
Re: some of my words may be triggering to others, although I hope not offensive
Maybe I'm just worse than usual at interacting with stories containing non-villain characters I hate. I'm actually used to the Ken Follett suspense-novel formula, which alternates chapters between heroes and villains, and in the villain chapters they're pretty damn sympathetic and you're sort of rooting for them, even though you KNOW you don't want them to achieve their overall goal.

I don't like hating protagonists or supporting characters to the protagonists; if I hate them, they had better be villains like Dolores Umbridge.
lenora_rose
Feb. 22nd, 2011 03:11 am (UTC)
Re: some of my words may be triggering to others, although I hope not offensive
I'm in between. I think they wanted you to grow to dislike Owen, and realise he's a jerk through and through, but I've also seen from their responses in interviews that they didn't think it was nearly the issue it is. Also, I think different writers had different ideas how much you were meant to dislike him (The writer of Out of Time clearly wanted us to like him, or at least feel for him, the writers of other episodes clearly wanted to play him for some level of rogue, whether likeable or not.

(I admit, though, I took their word that it was meant for laughs, and not really the same as a roofie, until someone more clueful took my justifications for brushing off my own discomfort with the 'joke' to pieces.)

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