I play a game called World of Warcraft…

September 16th, 2010 | Tags: , , , , ,

I play a game called World of Warcraft in which people of all shapes and sizes, colors and ethnicities, and gender also play. In the game, there is an awful lot of killing of virtual monsters and bad guys. I love killing stuff in the game. I kill all sorts of stuff from other people’s characters, to animals, and I’ve been known go to a little crazy with the turkey killing. But at no point have I ever raped someone… in game or otherwise.

So today I want to discuss something that has floated around the internet for quite some time now. The use of the word rape within the gaming community is nothing new. The terminology of the gaming community varies and shifts and wanes. It’s this one term, “rape” that bothers me. It bothers me a lot. Actually, it downright enrages me! What I’m talking about is using the term “rape” to describe killing, attacking, besting, pwning, etc another character, player, NPC or, well, anything in the game for that matter.

It wasn’t that long ago that there was a huge stink over Penny Arcade’s use of the word rape in a comic. In my opinion, I find that I side much more with Shakesville moreso than Tycho and Gabe. Their response to the accusation was so much more disheatening than the original comic was. It’s infuriating. I’ll get to the reasons why, I promise.

Last night I was on my Druid, doing what she does, healing the crap outta some people in Ulduar, while we were there specifically to get Glory to the Ulduar Raider (10) achievements. In the middle of all of this, as we’re attempting to get Crazy Cat Lady, someone jokes about raping another raid member in Vent. There were a handful of chuckles, but it wasn’t until someone said, “There’s no such thing as rape” that I started to be offended. Deeply. I had raided the previous week with many of the same people and looked forward to working on getting my dragon mount. Many of them were in the same guild. There were a handful of raid members who were not part of their guild or my own.

First, a rule has long since been established within my current guild on Eldre’Thalas that you are not allowed to use the term “rape” in reference to anything in the game. Why? Because it trivializes the experience for any and all who are victims and/or survivors. It lessens their trauma to something funny in a virtual game.

Second, I don’t know these people personally. I know a lot of my guild members personally. I could tell you personal details of their lives. I didn’t want to cause a big stink immediately upon it happening, but I did say something, to the raid leader. As the conversation continued in whisper with him, his wife also whispered me about my discomfort about how the term was being tossed about.

The icing on the cake was when someone said “It’s not rape until the check bounces.” Alright guy. Now, I’m pissed. I was tolerable, and even consolable before. A mere mention to maybe back off would have been okay. But that… that takes the fuckin’ cake sir. And I will not sit down and take that from anyone.

At the end of the raid, when there was talk about continuing later in the week to get more achievements, the raid leader I whispered brought up the issue in Vent. Calmly, he said “Also, there’s something else I want to bring up. There are ladies in the group and some of them were offended by the use of the word rape.” Some of the younger men piped up about how it was “funny” and it was only a “joke”. Keep in mind, I hadn’t spoken at all on these strangers vent. Never intended to. I keep my gender a secret in the game because WoW is filled with so many misogynists that I’d rather be judged on my ability to keep your ass alive than on the female tone of my voice. Or my apparent lack of a penis between my legs.

I pressed the button. I spoke the first and only time to these strangers. I was hot and pissed, and fists were clenched. I explained that rape is not funny. Will never be funny. That it’s offensive and horrible to hear the term be thrown about as though it were some hilarious aside. I was angry. Shaking with clenched fists angry. I felt my face get hot, my voice get shaky, and tears flowed down my face. My heart raced as I wished death upon the asshole who thought it was funny to joke about bouncing checks constituting rape.

One guy, in response to me said, “I’ve never been raped, so since I’ve never experienced it, it’s just funny to me.”

*blinks* Rly?

By this point I was seeing red. I was flaming pissed off and I yelled into the microphone that it is not funny and will never be funny. Someone said “Alright, let’s bring this down a little bit or I’m going to start kicking people.” At which point I left the vent. I dropped the raid. And I whispered the raid leader that I’d like to not ever be invited to anything they were doing again. And to please forget I existed. He apologized, again. Said I was good heals and I didn’t hear back from him again. The RLs wife was whispering me about how she understood where I was coming from and reassured me that the one’s making the comments were not guild members. Except, one of them was.

He took offense to my stating that he was less likely to be raped because of his penis, and that he doesn’t believe that women’s bodies react involuntarily. When in fact, the only difference between a man’s body reacting to unwanted sexual stimulation and a woman’s body reacting to unwanted sexual stimulation is the fact that a man’s bodily response is much easier to detect.

Many sexual abuse survivors have trouble dealing with the fact that their body was sexually stimulated and felt aroused during the abuse. They may feel guilty and ashamed that they responded to the stimulation, and confused about why they did.
“Sexual Feelings During Sexual Abuse” by Kali Munro, M.Ed., Psychotherapist, 2004

So please, don’t patronize me with your false sense of education. Fury Warrior with no brain, you’re wrong. There is such a thing as rape, and the body will respond whether you like it or not. This is exactly how men are raped… just much less often than women.

Now, Amanda Marcotte over at Pandagon.net talks about the way Tycho and Gabe reacted to the outcry of insensitivity on their part. Amanda talks both about the original comic, Shakesville’s reaction, and in turn the Penny Arcade response.

I found the blog post an annoying rationalization for disliking humor in general, which the blogger admits she does.  I find the “but rape is real!” argument against jokes of this nature to be a disingenuous one.  Slavery is also real, as is murder and general violence.

I will not discount that slavery and murder and general violence aren’t real. They very much are. The biggest difference between rape and those other horrible acts are that none of them specifically target one gender moreso than another. Physiologically, women are at a disadvantage. We’re made softer, smaller, less agile and less strong. Don’t give me the crap about women body builders, because that is not the general rule with women. There are always exceptions to every rule. For the most part most men can overpower, by sheer strength, most women.

Let’s take a look at murder first. According to FBI.gov, there were 13,636 murder victims in 2009. The U.S population is roughly 307,006,550 as of July 2009, according to Google Public Data. That makes it 4.44% of the total population is a victim of murder. Yes, most murder victims are male, but men are more likely to commit violent acts or be involved in violent acts (and an entirely separate issue altogether). That means, generously, 1 in 20 people you see on the street could be a murder victim.

Now let’s look at slavery and try to put it into perspective. Between the years 1776 and 1800, “A yearly average of 74,000 slaves were imported for the American colonies, or a total of 1,850,000“. That’s a helluva lot of people. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t agree with slavery, but I can’t pretend it didn’t happen either. Many numbers stop around 1860 regarding the number of slaves, which makes it nearly impossible to put it into modern terms. Roughly 47% of the lower southern states were slaves. 29% of the upper southern states had slaves. Those are pretty high numbers, but nothing within the last hundred or so years. Certainly nothing with the last few years.

Then we have rape. 1 in 6 women are victims of an attempted or completed rape. That’s 16.67% of women. Compared to 1 in 33 for men (3.03%). Comparing slavery from hundreds of years ago, and murder (where the U.S. is #24 worldwide) to rape (where the U.S. is #1 worldwide) is deplorable. The total number of murders is a fraction of the total number of rapes against women.

So when I asked you, random strangers on some other guild’s vent, to please refrain from using the term rape, a simple “Okay” would have been sufficient. I received a whisper from someone else who was there during all of it as well, and he said he was sorry. He apologized and said he’d stop using the term. Informed me his sister had almost been raped. I replied with “I’m really sorry to hear that.” And I genuinely was.

Would it have been any less funny if I told you I was raped? If I were a victim or a survivor? Would it have been less funny if you found out your mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, best friend’s mom, cousin, whatever had been raped? Or is it still HILARIOUS because you yourself have never been raped? Sometimes, it’s not about you. Sometimes it’s about the fact that you are trivializing the experience. Making jokes doesn’t make it less serious. Making jokes doesn’t make it not happen. The truth remains that every 2 minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.

Some of the problem is that as women and men, we’ve allowed this to be socially acceptable within our favorite games. The anonymity of the internet has allowed more and more people to be bigger and bigger assholes. Women who play video games have been treated as though we are incapable of playing our characters without a man to run along side of us. Many women don’t broadcast their gender within the game where men play female characters. They let people assume whatever they will, rather than deal with the chastisement of “OMG, UR NOT RLY A GURL!!” (if you think people haven’t said or typed this exact thing to me, you’re fooling yourself).

Women, the only thing I can ask of you is to stop tolerating this. Don’t let it go. What I said to the player who told me his sister was almost raped was “If you stop saying it, then I’m happy. I made a difference with one person.” That’s one less person who’s going to use “rape”. Say something. It has to stop.

Men, I have to ask that you not sit on your laurels and let it happen. If you look at your wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers, and find that rape is funny if it involves one of them, then by all means, let your brothers’ in arms go about their raping ways. If the very thought of someone YOU love being raped is not even the least bit funny, stop it from happening. Say something. Women aren’t taken as seriously in WoW as men are, so it’s up to you to help make a difference.

This isn’t about freedom of speech. This is about changing the meaning of a word that in and of itself describes a very violent act. You’re free to talk about killing all the virtual monsters you want to. But you’re not raping them. Rape doesn’t happen in WoW. It happens in real life. It’s not funny. It never will be.