Making a Game of Rape
It never ends. In one minute, my culture will give me something that makes my little feminist-y heart proud – the President of the United States standing up for same-sex marriage, for example – only to rip it apart again with yet another sexist chunk of idiocy (this one comes with bonus racism!). Scott Madin, a twitter friend of mine, pays a lot of attention to Kickstarter and programs being funded using this service. He’ll then point the good ones out on Twitter and suggest support. Occasionally, he runs across a bad one, and he’ll point those out too. Last week, he managed to find a really bad one.
What is it? A game in which the entire goal is to fictionally rape as many women as possible. And they’re waving the “free speech” flag on objections to it. Luckily, Kickstarter canceled the project, which forced the game-makers to move it to their own site to fundraise for the project.
The game is called “Tentacle Bento” as a reference to the fetishized aspects of Japanese culture it draws from (hentai, Lolita and school girl fashion). According to the six minute promotional video – which is where the bonus racism comes in! – the game is set in a Japanese boarding school where you have to “capture” as many girls as possible. It is sort of a reverse Clue – you have to collect different scenario, person, and tactic cards in order to capture a girl, and there are ways you can capture multiple girls at once.
“Tentacle,” by the way, is a clear reference to hentai or Japanese pornography, one particularly nasty subset of which features women being violated by many tentacled monsters (animated women, but still).
So the literal goal of the game is to capture innocent school girls by raping them with your tentacles.
…there must be a joke I’m missing. Surely they’re doing this ironically?
I shouldn’t need to explain why this is problematic. It should be fairly obvious. But it’s not, apparently; according to Gabriel at Penny Arcade – one of the high profile supporters of the game – by criticizing his decision to support the game, we are participating in an act of censorship. By saying, “Hey, dude, that’s pretty awful of you,” we’re “censoring.”
Right, time for a refresher: someone not liking what you say is not censorship. Someone suggesting you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing because it propagates harmful attitudes toward women and victims of rape is NOT censorship. You have the right to say what you want. We have the right to say you’re a moron.
But that’s not what’s really at issue here. What is at issue is that the people promoting and making this game apparently cannot see what is so problematic with it. Not only does it appropriate and fetishize fashion from a different culture – playing on the innocent Asian school girl stereotype that dehumanizes and sexualizes Japanese women* – but it advocates making the rape of women (albeit by fictional monsters, but still a violation of bodily autonomy) a “fun game,” a “goal to be achieved.”
I know, I know, you men who think this is funny: you probably haven’t raped someone. You probably have a wife or a girlfriend you go home to and cuddle with and are perfectly kind to. You’d never dreamed of actually raping someone, and if a friend was accused of rape, you would be reconsidering your friendship with that person.
But, let me tell you a story: my father works in the prison system. He encounters rapists as part of his daily life – he’s a teacher, so he gets to spend extended amounts of time with the prisoners in a capacity that is different from that of a guard. One of the classes he teaches is “Impact of Crime on Victims.” You see, part of the problem with criminals who commit multiple crimes is that they don’t see their victims as human beings, so part of the rehabilitation offered in the prison system is taking classes designed toward creating a sense of empathy in the inmates in the hopes that they will think before committing another crime.
And you know what these men think?
They think that everyone else thinks like them. They think that every man would do what they did if given the chance, and that the men who don’t are just better at hiding it. Many of them genuinely think that every man sees women the same way they do – not as whole human beings, but basically as machines that get uppity when they won’t have sex.
My father once told me that every single rapist he encountered on the inside was a fan of television shows like “The Man Show” (when it was on) and other misogynistic “entertainment.”** There’s a reason my father has to spend a lot of time culling the library donations for books that have explicit rape and sex scenes – seeing that sort of attitude reflected in the culture merely reinforces for those rapists that they are in the right, that everyone actually agrees with them, and what they did wasn’t REALLY wrong.
Because, if it was, then people wouldn’t be laughing about rape, would they?
So, creators of “Tentacle Bento,” that is the message you are sending. You may never dream of committing rape; you may not even see what you’re promoting as rape. But I assure you, when you laugh about “capturing women” and “taking control with your tentacles,” you are telling each and every one of those men – who are most assuredly a portion of your demographic – that you agree with them, that you are on their side. You are helping to convince them that their violation of another person’s body are a-okay.
One of the ways to change a person’s behavior is to make them feel alone – to make them realize that, no, what they’re saying/thinking/doing isn’t “normal.” This can be a weapon for negative forces (see the way LGBT people are treated). But with criminals, knowing that they are different, that not everyone thinks like them is vital to creating a change. When they realize they are not supported, that what they’ve done leads to social stigmatization, that, no, actually, people find their way of thinking abhorrent, then they will (hopefully) begin to change.
But until we stop turning rape into a joke, we will simply be affirming for the rapists in our audience that they have support, that they have the backing of culture, and that, yes, sure, we agree with them. And if agreeing with a rapist on his view of women doesn’t scare you, then I don’t know what will.
*Note: In the promo video which features two live action actresses playing the characters from the game, we have white women pretending to be Japanese. It’s like Mickey Rooney’s yellow face in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – awful and gross and kind of scary.
**Note 2.0: This isn’t to say that there is a direct causal link between The Man Show and rape. But, there is a correlation between misogynistic entertainment and how men who rape view women.