Monday, August 29, 2011

Don't Throw the Booth Babe Out With The PAX Water - My Take on the Dickwolves Controversy

Trigger Warning: Dickwolves Ahead

A lot of people I know and follow on Twitter have talked about boycotting PAX over the dickwolves controversy.  Recaps abound all over the internet, but here's a timeline and a summary from my point of view:

PAX is a very large gaming con run by the guys who write the webcomic Penny Arcade.  Last year, they wrote a strip (see "dickwolves" link above) making fun of quests in MMORPGs.  Typically these quests go like this:  Save five slaves.  Leave the other fifteen to rot.  Move on to next quest while more slaves spawn in behind you.  The joke is that games don't make sense, and in fact encourage our fictional-selves to be jerks.

The controversy is over the use of rape in the joke.  The (male) slave declares that he is going to be raped to sleep every night by dickwolves, but not even this persuades the heartless hero, who has other quests to complete.

Most of the controversy arose months after I read this strip (and LOLed).  Gabe and Tycho issued a funny apology where, in spite of the humor, they make it clear they do not condone rape.  Later they pulled their dickwolves merchandise, but not the comic.  Again, that first link is the quickest way for you to get up to speed here.

Gabe and Tycho have actually received death threats over this, so yeah, it's a pretty big deal.

Nevertheless, I happily attended PAX Prime 2011.  The subject came up in Twitter several times over the year, and each time, I tried to describe in 140 characters or less why a boycott is the worst possible reaction (second to making death threats).  But Twitter is a poor place to make effective arguments about sensitive and complex topics such as these, hence a post.

I've been attending cons since 1995, and of them all, PAX is the most female-friendly.  I want to support that.  More, I want to continue to influence con culture by being a strong woman with strong opinions.  That's how culture improves.  Each of us makes our little waves in the best way we can, trying to persuade.  We don't take our toys and go home.  That doesn't persuade anyone.  As con culture improves, we need to continue to participate fully.  Now is not the time to abandon the community just because we're all now more aware of what has always gone on.

Fact: Geek culture is hostile towards women.  It always has been.  It won't always will be.  This past year there have been a lot of other controversies, which in my opinion, are far more worthy of outrage.  Like actual harassment at Apachecon against a speaker and board member.  After that a lot of women came out of the woodwork to tell their own stories, and I realized I have a few of my own that I could look at in a new light.  Instead of feeling shame, which was my original reaction, I realized I could feel empowered and set boundaries and push back.

If you're a woman who attends cons, you've probably already been harassed, whether you knew it or not.  Someone has touched you without consent, or oggled you when oggling wasn't invited, or catcalled you, or made an offensive remark about your gender.  It's happened to me plenty of times.  You just take it, as part of being a gamer who happens to be female.

But it shouldn't have to be something we "just take", which is why the Con Anti-Harassment Project was formed.  Their goal is to get every con to enforce a strict anti-harassment policy.  PAX does this, and has done it every year I've attended (since at least 2007).  This isn't exactly a standard policy, and some actively resist, which is why CAHP works so hard.

That said, in a culture like this, real rape happens at cons all over the world.  It doesn't take a web comic by the founders to create a culture wherein rape will happen.  What helps prevent it are things like awareness and strict policies against the steps leading up to rape... like harassment.  Which PAX has done.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  The dickwolves joke was offensive for two reasons.  1. It's triggering.  2. Rape jokes encourage rape culture, and the dickwolves strip is one of those jokes.

For the first point, that's true.  The word "rape" and references to it are indeed triggering.  Let me get scientific for a moment: Victims of trauma often suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  "Triggers" are words, sights, sounds, or smells that bring back the memory of the trauma or cause the trauma-survivor to feel afraid when they otherwise wouldn't have anything to fear.

I understand this and sympathize with people for whom rape is a trigger-word.  I have my own PTSD symptoms for childhood events that I don't even fully remember.  It's been a long journey for me to overcome some of those triggers so I can enjoy a full life.

I can't really argue with someone who boycotts PAX because they don't feel safe there.  You're not statistically any more likely to be hurt at PAX than anywhere else, but triggers are triggers, and you have to deal with it in your own way.  I have a panic response when anyone grabs my thigh (even safe people I love and trust), and will completely lose control if I feel cornered in an emotional situation, even by safe people I love and trust.  That doesn't mean either thing is actually unsafe, but I draw clear lines on both counts: Don't grab my legs, and don't corner me in emotional situations.

Likewise for anyone who avoids PAX for the same reason.  By all means, avoid PAX and I truly wish you the best of luck on your journey.

The use of trigger-words in popular culture is a trickier subject.  Should Penny Arcade have avoided the use of "rape" because it triggers some people?  I don't think so.  I have belonged to survivor and recovery communities where trigger-words were either banned or required trigger warnings.  Survivors join those communities to experience a safe environment, so those are the rules.

But in culture at large?  No.  We have to talk about these issues, in all kinds of ways -- in serious or funny or irreverent or solemn ways.  My horror novella, Make Willing the Prey, is full of potentially triggering material.  Is it any more redeemable because it's scary and serious?  Because I make it clear that Rape Is Bad?

Why is rape in fiction any "better" than rape in humor, if the humor continues to imply that rape is bad?  The joke didn't even make light of rape.  The rape content was there to exaggerate the slave's predicament, to make you sympathize with him, so you would question your own behavior in video games.

It's hard to see myself as any different from Tycho and Gabe, when my novella also capitalizes on the horror of rape.  But no one is talking about banning the topic of rape from novels and novellas - oh wait, people are.  It's hard for me to see the difference here.

Which leads me to point #2: Rape culture.

Yes, rape culture is a very real thing.  There are plenty of rape jokes which make light of rape, wherein the message is "rape is good, women are bad".  They are a lot like racist jokes, which dehumanize non-whites and make light of lynchings and other violence.  Both make violent acts seem justified.  If you want to see some examples of real rape jokes, here you go.  Warning: TRIGGERS and OMG I didn't even read very far because that is just how offensive they are.

(As a totally side tangent, Jezebel has a thought-provoking article on "Are Rape Jokes Ever Funny".)

The thing is, as women we can react to these things in a lot of ways.  I think the fact that Penny Arcade is now in Wikipedia as an example of a joke promoting Rape Culture is really bad for making the point.  It's a terrible example of how jokes promote rape culture.  It's become a straw man.  People who don't understand are not going to be enlightened by this example, and if fact will have their notions reinforced: that feminists are reactionary, overly-emotional whiners who complain over nothing.  In other words, it fails to be persuasive.  And isn't that what we want?  To persuade?

Here is a much better reaction to counter rape culture.  Duke Nukem Forever was just released, and it disgustingly promotes rape culture.  Thankfully the game also sucked in a lot of other ways, so almost no one played it.  But women are in a double-bind about complaining about this sort of content, because doing so promotes lots of negative stereotypes that undermine our argument.  It was solved brilliantly in this video:  Women React to Duke Nukem Forever

So I don't think the dickwolves joke promoted rape culture in any way.

That being said, even if it does somehow promote rape culture, the good that PAX does far outshines the bad.  Not to equivocate, but again, geek culture sucks for women.  It always has.  We don't live in the perfect utopia where all geeks are enlightened, socially conscious members of polite society.

I've always felt PAX has come the closest to that ideal vision.  Here are some examples:
1. PAX has an anti-harassment policy.  See above.  And there are Enforcers (security) everywhere to report to.  And I saw a number female Enforcers, if you are more comfortable reporting to one.

2. PAX has more panels on women's issues than I've ever seen at a con.  This year, I went to one called "Fat, Ugly, or Slutty: Exposing Harassment in Online Gaming", put on by the staff of  All the seats were filled, and now a very large ball room of gamers know more about this topic.  Many were undoubtedly persuaded that online harassment of women is bad.  On the way out, I overheard a girl explaining to her male friends how gender-based harassment is different from trash-talking an opponent.  She otherwise might not have gotten that opportunity.

3. PAX does not allow booth babes.  By booth babe here, we mean a scantily-clad woman hired specifically to market games when she doesn't know anything about games, designed to lure sex-starved male gamers into the booth.

PAX culture has not tolerated them even before the ban.  In fact, at my first PAX in 2007, I recall a mini-controversy over the only scantily-clad woman on the floor: A pirate in a corset.  Some people thought she was a hired booth babe, and there were negative murmurs, until she came onto the forums and chewed everyone out.  Yes, she was a real gamer girl, and yes she really liked to dress that way, and yes she actually played and loved the pirate game she was promoting.  That's what PAX gamers want.  Even the guys.

That year I spoke to several people that year who were upset at booth-babe-types passing out party invites.  I'm sure that party was well-attended by a few creeps who go for that, but prevailing attitudes were about how disgusting it was.  That sort of marketing doesn't fly at PAX.  It never has.  This year, almost all pamphleteer women I saw were wearing t-shirts.

4. PAX gives women a chance to speak out against scanty armor.  This year a game called Firefall was being hugely promoted with the most ridiculous scanty armor I've ever seen, because it's on a powered mech suit.  There is never any reason to expose your belly button in a mech suit!  The women's bathroom had a picture of one of these suits with the face cut out so we women could laugh at how stupid the character designers are and how clueless their marketing team is.

The idea of scanty armor is hilarious to many PAX attendees, and again, it's about culture.  If lots of people are mocking the sexist armor design, those in favor of jerking off to it at night just might overhear.  If the booth-babes trend shows any evidence, this kind of subtle influence is important to making the changes we want to see.

5. PAX culture provides a petri dish where all sorts of enlightened conversations happen.  In 2009, the big controversy was over EA's promotion of a game at Comic Con, wherein guys were encouraged to commit "acts of lust" against the booth babes, for which they'd win a prize that bordered on prostitution.  Lots of people were talking about it, and no one in a positive way.  I've had lots of these types of discussions at PAX.  Not so many at other cons.

PAX does not transform into a hostile environment just because of one web strip.  Let's compare it to, say Defcon, where something happened that I'm a little afraid to talk about in a public forum where everyone knows my name.  I've thought of emailing Defcon directly with a complaint, but haven't yet because that's how intimidating this is.

I didn't see this myself, but Roland did.  Guys were walking around the hallways with a sign reading "Shots for Tits".  This in and of itself is not too unexpected.  After all, we're talking Defcon here, which prides itself on irreverence and rebel behavior, where even the elevator computers are fair game.  I rolled my eyes at Roland... whatever.  It happens.  It's a con, and the guys want to see tits.  Lighten up.

But here's the scary part: Goons were participating.  Goons fill the role PAX Enforcers do.  They're security.  They're the ones you might normally go to for help.

One girl took the bait, and started to lift her shirt.  She was immediately surrounded by guys.  Completely.  Some of them were Goons.

I'm sexually liberated and all.  I've flashed at cons before, for a lot less than a shot.  But when con security participates in an activity like this, it makes me feel unsafe.  It institutionalizes the behavior, sanctions it.  When real authority asks you to show your tits, it stops being consensual. How are they supposed to take complaints of harassment or reports of rape seriously, if they're the ones holding the signs?

That's what I have to compare PAX to.  And that's why I'm going to keep on going to PAX.  Because geek culture is getting better.  Guys are starting to wise up.  And PAX is a shining example of what we want.

We've come this far.  Let's not throw it all out.

Update 1/3/2012: I've just learned of an organization called Men Can Stop Rape.  If you are still angry at Penny Arcade and PAX over the Dickwolves controversy, maybe spend some of that steam supporting a positive organization which takes positive actions to change rape culture, to remove ignorance from men who don't believe it exists, and to encourage good men to protect the women around them.  Send them some money, speak out in favor of them as often as you speak out against PAX, or even better, volunteer.  Yelling at people will not change their minds, so if you really want to prevent rape, do something positive.


  1. Being an Enforcer I'll state that I do not speak for Penny Arcade nor PAX in any official capacity.

    You post reflects the concerns we have regarding harassment at PAX. We hear stories of it happening and it hurts to know people get away with it.

    quoting Robert Khoo: "we will definitely be integrating language that reflects these concerns [about harrassment and how to deal with it] going forward. Our goal is to create a safe place for all attendees, full stop."

    And knowing this, please express to all your friends and readers that if you see harrassment or are a victim of it at PAX to immediately get the attention of security or an Enforcer. We WANT to deal with it. (I can't believe the story about Defcon)

  2. Thanks for all you do, Chris. I have always felt safe at PAX, and I'm glad you guys are actively working to improve upon that. The Enforcers I've seen have always seemed friendly and approachable. Good work. :)

  3. As a feminist who attends PAX regularly since 2008 because of other gamers in my life, I agree that boycotting the con is not the way to address sexism in gaming culture. Engaging everyone there, on-site, opening the dialogue with them directly, is much more powerful. I also attended the panel and saw that it definitely does happen.

    PAX has always felt safe to me. I am comfortable with my teenage daughter wandering around by herself, and have never overheard anything that really offended me. But I know that's due to the fact that I'm not a hard-core gamer, and am not in the midst of everything--not that it's not happening.

    I predict that boycotting will be ineffectual in the end, removing feminists from the sphere. If you are a feminist gamer or in the industry, I would love to see more of you right there onsite, making the con a better place.

  4. You are misrepresenting the crux of the controversy. It didn't really get rolling until PA did a second comic. Please see for a full timeline.

  5. Hi Anon. Yes, I was aware of the second comic already, and that does not change my opinion. Gabe and Tycho make it clear where they stand on the issue of rape in general, even though it is couched in humor. The sarcasm of the piece does not negate the clear message (of either strip) that rape is bad. I see no problem with it being stated in a humorous way, since it is, after all, a comic strip. Humor can't excuse everything, which is why I compare their strips with /real/ rape jokes, which always indicate that rape is fun and good.

    PAX still stands as one of the safest cons I have attended, with more awareness towards women's safety issues and the comfort of females in the gaming industry. As a woman, and a victim of harassment at cons and in the workplace, AND as a CSA survivor, I want to encourage that.

  6. "The sarcasm of the piece does not negate the clear message (of either strip) that rape is bad."

    It was an idiotic, tone-deaf response that mocked and antagonized people who were upset by the first strip. It drastically escalated the situation.

  7. It did mock people who had a problem with the first strip, but it did not mock survivors of rape or indicate that rape is in any way good. If people with opinions can't take a little mocking, they will remain unconvincing.

    The topic of rape is a sensitive one. There are people who have never been raped, nor known anyone who has admitted to being raped. It is a distant topic for them, outside the realm of their experience. They aren't monsters. They simply need to be persuaded about just how painful it can be, even years later. On the other side of the spectrum are people who are probably survivors, or who work with survivors, who are like burn victims. They are very raw, and any non-solemn mention of the topic instantly inflames them.

    It is hard for someone coming from that "raw" place, with strong reactions, to convince anyone on the other side. Worse, there are people in the middle, who sympathize with both sides. When one side reacts so strongly that they become unreasonable, the people in the middle will remain unconvinced.

    There are legitimate reasons for the strong reaction, both to the first comic and the later one and subsequent drama. I get that. But follow my point: It became unconvincing. Unpersuasive. And that, to me, persuasion is the goal. Persuade public figures like Gabe and Tycho to learn something about the world they didn't know before.

    It is clear from this post: that at least some of that message got through. After that, IMO, it was time for everyone to lay down their guns. Success! Progress! Two white males were persuaded to at least partially see how they were wrong. The goal stated there encourages me, A LOT:

    "We want PAX to be a place were everyone feels welcome and we’ve worked really hard to make that happen... When I heard from a few people that the shirt would make them uncomfortable at PAX, that gave me pause."

    And what convinced him, in the end?

    "These were not rants on blogs but personal mails to me from people being very reasonable."

    Not the hyperbole. Not the attacks. Not the death threats and insults. People stating their point of view in a reasonable and sincere manner.

    In these sorts of dramas, you have to ask yourself: What is the real goal? If the goal is convince people in power to make changes, or at least to widen their mind a little bit, then your tactics will be quite different than someone who has other goals in mind. Like punishment, revenge, "being right", proving yourself right, control, or instant wide-sweeping change.

    In the end, we're all humans with our own experiences. Even straight white males in power are human beings. In this case, these straight white males are more reasonable than some, and PAX is heading in the right direction when many Cons are still living in the dark ages. Let's not burn down the barn before it's even built.

  8. Thanks for your article. After skimming through the tumblr timeline it was hard to maintain the impression that there are intelligent rational women not commanded by their feelings alone writing on the internet -an impression you single-handedly restored to full health again! Most authors (on both sides of the controversy) weren't interested or capable to write about the actual problem and possible solutions, but you did; thanks again.

  9. Thanks, diskompo. A lot of women feel the way I do. They just don't write about it. Or they sent private emails to Penny Arcade (which were persuasive). The most passionate voices are often unreasonable and also the loudest -- but they're not representative of every member of the group. (I'm passionate, too, and so are many of the women who do not share their opinions -- nothing wrong with feelings!)

    It's an unfortunate cycle: 1. Oppressed group starts to get pissed off about real problems and starts speaking out. 2. Their passions lead to actions that reconfirm existing stereotypes or create new ones. 3. Those passions are used as an excuse to dismiss the oppressed group's valid points.

    I consider myself a feminist, and a semi-vocal one at that. And I have plenty to be angry about. But I'm also looking at the long view. Will an ad hominem and pissy attitude really help get myself and other women what they want? No.

    Just keep in mind there are many, many other women out there who think and feel similarly to me. We just don't write about it as much -- and when we do, we often don't get the spotlight because it's not "exciting". As we writers learn in fiction -- drama and tension sells. Peaceful coexistence doesn't... and that's true in real life.

  10. I love how you mention the threat against Gabe and Tycho, but completely ignore the 60+ rape and death threats against the critics of the comic strip that the critics got daily. Or the comments on twitter by Gabe or Tycho mocking the very concept of rape culture.

    Fair and balanced! No surprise you get comments like diskompo (who even uses the whole "emotional women" thing. Classy!).

    Penny Arcade *should* be in a wikipedia article about rape culture, because the very way they acted IS rape culture. The way their supporters acted is pure rape culture as well, complete with "she wasn't really raped, she probably wanted it" and threatening women who spoke up with rape.

    Just because they are otherwise good guys doesn't mean they, sadly, didn't egg rape culture on like that. They did.

    It didn't have to escalate. Had their original response to the criticism been more mature, there'd be no controversy. But no, they had to do it like this.

  11. Thank you for your comment. I understand the outrage, the fear and anger. I really do. I also understand that female bloggers are particularly harassed, for speaking out about many different topics, and as a female blogger who occasionally writes about feminist and controversial topics, I am putting myself at risk of such treatment. I get all that, and many of the responses to those who criticized the Dickwolves strip were absolutely inexcusable.

    But at the end of the day, we the outraged need to decide: Do we want to be outraged? Or do we want to be persuasive? Do we want to stew in our righteous indignation, or do we want to change the world?

    Gabe and Tycho were changed by this experience. Are they man-beating bra-burners now? No. Do they despise all hints and breaths of rape culture, and smack down their brothers who even begin to curl their tongue around the "R" to say the world "Rape"? No. (In fact they had a recent strip that threatened a character with non-consensual sexual actions, so they still dance around the edges of this kind of humor.)

    But they *were* persuaded to drop the merchandise, and I believe they were persuaded to be a little more sensitive around this topic in the future. Which for a couple of privileged white guys mired in an extremely insensitive and violent gamer culture, is something that should be celebrated.

    Gabe and Tycho wield a LOT of power over gamer culture. (See the recent Ocean Marketing incident, which I have mixed feelings about as well.) Persuasion should be the feminist community's #1 goal with them. Show them that women are *reasonable*, *persuasive* human beings who have rational points to make, and they could become powerful forces for change. But not if we keep proving ourselves to be the bra-burning insane PMSing unforgiving scorned bitches that we keep proving ourselves to be -- at least the most extreme of us...

    And on "their" side of the argument? The ones who threaten to rape and pillage and burn those who speak out? They are also the most extreme on *that* side. If you throw Gabe and Tycho into that camp, then it merely becomes a battle of the extremes, which no one can win.

  12. I quit reading Penny Arcade well before this brouhaha because I don't believe that, despite the fact that these guys are married fathers, they have any great respect for women. The comic that solidified this view was not the one that started a Tumblr of their pratfalls, sadly. It was instead one published right after Gabe's wife had a baby, in which she was sexually harassed by a man who wanted to drink her breast milk from the source. Creepy at best.

    I will not support them and their enterprise with my page views or my PAX attendance. Until a bunch of people come to the same conclusion, they aren't going to change. Gabe and Tycho have proven they don't listen and don't care to, so hit them in the pocketbook.

  13. You expect perfection, not improvement. And all I've seen from PAX culture is improvement, especially comparing it to every other con I've been to and heard about (with the exception of Geek Girl Con, which I first heard of AT PAX.) A huge improvement.

    Nothing changes overnight. Especially when people who want the change refuse to recognize it and support it.

  14. Great article with great points. As a girl, it saddens me to see feminism being set back by those on the fringe. Women are still not being treated as equal, and (unfortunately) the prevailing view of feminism is the crazy 'feminazis' like the ones freaking out over the comic strip. Yes, the second one was kind of rubbing salt in the wound, and seemed a bit callous...but I wonder if that's more from internet culture than 'rape culture.'

    You're asking us to use persuasion rather than boycotting, and I think that's a lovely way to view a lot of things.

    Completely ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away. Women and men will still be raped even if the word, and all references to it, were wiped from existence.

    The only way to address issues in society is to have a calm, rational conversation about them. Those on the fringe for either side (of any argument) deserve no part in the conversation.

  15. Good points. I do think the fringes deserve some part in the conversation, but should be kept at the fringes, and I would ask them to moderate their tone. For many, issues such as rape are, by necessity, an emotional issue. Men often feel attacked for something they've not done, and women, especially those who are survivors, have a lot of PTSD triggers and are working through those in a public forum.

    In the past, feminism has had to be extreme to get past the filters society has put into place. My hope is that now with technology, and modern culture being more fluid, feminists and other civil rights proponents can be heard without being extreme.

  16. To re-emphasize being sane: The worst two traits of much of what I've seen of feminism (especially online) are hyperbole and the bullcrap. People seeing problems EVERYWHERE and getting ridiculously hyperbolic about it. At that point, a few things happen:

    1. You start thinking about things in terms of Camps A and B, and inject yourself into the argument, not just your points. This means you get stuck in a rut. Counterpoints directed at what you say is an argument against yourself, and you are right so these are inconsiderate pigs... And then it all goes to hell, and fast.

    2. You won't convince a single person by making a mountain out of a molehill. You'll just appear to be an unhinged, obnoxious lunatic. That results in people recoiling from whatever you say, regardless of whether it has merit or not. Just because you were very outraged, they won't hear you ever again. Because you were an unbelieveably irritating self-righteous whiny bitch when there was no need to. Have fun being oppressed, I guess? Smart tactics not only pay off, but give many people a better day, result in an actual conversation, and just might change some opinions.
    Shocking, I know.

    A brilliant example of the above is the reaction to the comics over at Shakesville (links at though I probably shouldn't be giving those idiots hits). Did reading those posts make me go "Hm, you know, I never thought of that" or "Yeah, that's kind of absurd" like the content of, say, Busty Girl Comics or Escher Girls does?*

    No. No it did not. It gave me an intense desire to smack the social justice warrior idiots seeing problems everywhere in the face and then affix a nail to the wall and smack my head against said section of wall on repeat, because little else would have sufficed against the frustration caused by all the self-righteousness, condescension and obnoxiousness. MISSION FAILED, thankyouverymuch for giving me a shitty day and making me want to commit violence just by being so unbelieveably annoying and stupid. The title of feminazi has never been so richly deserved.

    To be helpful instead of merely irritating, one trick to help with the camp thinking and keep discussion focused on issues instead of people: Examine how you construct your personality. Do you build it by saying "I am a feminist"? Why not try "I am a person who believes X and Y, and person who believes so can be described with the word feminist"?
    Notice the subtle difference? In the first one, you become associated with the group, or a perceived mindset. This can cause problems in the face of necessary changes in opinion (Like, for example, with former believers who have built around BEING Christian, for example. It is not simply a loss of faith, but a complete destruction of yourself), and also risks equivocating your opinions with who you are. Then when those views are attacked, you feel attacked, making calm discussion difficult if not impossible.

    The second kind of construction still allows for strongly held beliefs, but they in some way stop being such an intrinsic part of you. This helps immensely in considering alternate viewpoints, sympathizing with other people, and admitting that yes, you were indeed wrong. Like the person who is upset that 4chan's /b/ is a seething pit of vileness, and does not see it as the natural way of the world.

    And Luna, thank you for being someone sane amid the shitstorm.

    * on the topic of BGC and Escher Girls, there there is still unfortunately some annoying moralizing. Why the need? Esp. at Escher Girls, just make people lol at the absurdity, and show some more anatomically sane redraws that end up being more attractive than the comic book monsters and the comedy will do your job for you. It's as simple as that. Make people think, make them laugh, change can and will happen.

    1. Hi, thanks for your comments. It's an interesting distinction you made on identity vs opinions. When I stopped being Republican, and shortly thereafter when I stopped being Mormon, I suffered a very long tumultuous identity crisis, and I realized then that people "are" Mormon. They "are" Republican (or liberal or Buddhist or whatever). To lose my politics and my religion was to lose myself. Fortunately I found a new self, and became comfortable with the process of always evolving.

      I notice now I take broad labels very cautiously and often with lots of qualifiers. Probably for the reason you pointed out. I have no political home (I'm a Brin-style libertarian, or a libertarian-leaning pragmatist Democrat? or a thinking liberal? Or I don't even know what anymore. I'm kind of a Buddhist, but also an agnostic atheist Taoist pagan... I guess?) Because what I have are lots of philosophies and opinions and things that work for me, and I don't want to be pigeon-holed and I don't want anyone to assume all the things they'll assume if I just said "libertarian" or "liberal" or "atheist".

      I will say I'm a feminist, and I'm more comfortable with using that label and knowing I'm me. Maybe because to me being a feminist means knowing myself and standing up for myself and at the same time standing up for other women. So it's not a contradiction, even if for some feminists it means screaming at men and kicking transwomen out of meetings and whatever they do. They can be them and I can be me and we're both feminists and we can all disagree.

      I guess for some of them, they might not see it that way, and for them it is much more a part of their identity the way being a Mormon was for me. And you're right -- they won't be as persuasive. The same way I never managed to permanently convert anyone to Mormonism. But I sure had some great discussions with other Mormons about how right we were.

    2. O_o
      Reading that post now, the latter part of it came off as much less calm than I would've wanted. Ah, well.

      Speaking of how right we are, I read somewhere of a study that discovered that self-righteousness was kind of a mental drug. Being right is literally a thing you can get hooked on. Now, start with a One True God (or other clearly correct philosophy), construct yourself around it and...

      I don't much care for labels such as feminist myself - seeking to do right by others is enough, surely?

      btw, liberal and libertarian mean some pretty different things nowadays, especially in the US. Someone saying they're liberal would probably abhor the typical non-aggression principle abiding smallgov/anarchist libertarian :P

      Though as far as the big parties go, they're just two heads of the same beast, each horrible in their own way. Corporatist bastards, all :P

    3. Absolutely. Also look up cognitive dissonance/consonance theory. Studying mind control was sort of a hobby of mine for a while, and I learned all about the mechanisms of belief. Meme theory is another interesting (and compatible) way to look at it.. i.e. these ideas are living creatures fighting for survival.

      I'm very aware of the differences between liberal and libertarian which is why I'm not comfortable taking either label without paragraphs of qualifiers. I can argue most of my liberal/progressive positions USING libertarian logic. Here's where I did just that, on the issue of health care:

      I also have lots of great pro-business arguments for the building of public infrastructure.. in which I include welfare and unemployment as infrastructure. All using the free market as the REASON for strengthening those things. So see what I mean? There literally is no political label that applies to me.

      Seeking to do right by others is slightly different than "feminist". Maybe to me, feminism means being interested in the field of how women fit into society. Or an advocate for women having a better place in society. In that sense, feminism doesn't mean I have to hold X, Y, and Z positions... only that I care, and have positions in those areas. That said, my first feminist readings were of Wendy McElroy, who takes an individualist approach to feminism. So I would still support the overall point that greater freedom (and equality and other goodness) for the individual means greater freedom for women.

      Still, women have certain issues that men don't have, and I'm interested in those issues. Hence, I choose the label.

  17. A small addendum: Going on and on about rape culture is probably not very helpful in stirring up discussion. It is largely a part of the feminist community's jargon, not common parlance. "It is advancing rape culture", to most people, is not a valid point, because they do not have the mental construct in the first place. Starting off with that in commentary aimed at people outside is an immediate, albeit not terribly severe turnoff.

    Or, well, wouldn't be if it wasn't for certain people. I know I subconsciously expect horrible drek whenever I see the words "Trigger warning" somewhere. It's like those painful experiences reading horrible Shakesville posts are haunting me. Just one more notch in positivity's belt.

  18. Geek culture supposedly is about "smart" folks, folks who use logic. Geek culture also tends to be about expression that falls outside of cultural norms.

    Let's take a look at both of these, shall we? Particularly with regards to this sentiment:

    "Let me get scientific for a moment: Victims of trauma often suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)..." ...triggering.

    Science. Logic.

    What you are saying is "some people have had bad experiences in life; society should shield them from anything that triggers PTSD episodes regarding those those bad experiences."


    Ok, I'm an obnoxious hacker geek engineer. I'm also a volunteer firefighter. Ever cut a dead body out of a car? It's something you will never forget. The stench. The images of mutilation. On average in the US there are 90 highway fatalities per day. EMS workers do indeed suffer from PTSD, and hundreds of them deal with this horrible scene on a daily basis.

    Should we demand that we stop using cars? Oh, that's an reductio ad absurdum argument, because the good of using vehicles seems to outweigh the bad. Then I'll get less crazy, should EMS workers boycott video games and TV shows that "celebrate" car crashes? That still sounds insane, doesn't it?

    "But, car crashes are an accidental side effect.." Well, except when involving drunk drivers, right? That's not an "accident"...

    You can see where I'm taking this. And I know the response "but rape is awful!" Yeah, it is. And last I checked there was still free speech. Even for things that hurt people's feelings, or "trigger" their personal episodes.

    Hundreds of EMS personnel, professional and volunteer, deal with "triggers" of horrible memories EVERY DAY.

    Everyone has bad experiences in life. And guess what femgeeks, your bad experiences aren't more special than mine. Sorry, that's just how life is.

    Should you use your free speech to attack "rape culture"? Sure, but when you start censoring geek culture because "rape is bad and can trigger PTSD", "car crashes are bad and can trigger PTSD", "getting shot is bad and can trigger PTSD", "getting sliced in half by a katana is bad and can trigger PTSD", "getting beat up is bad and can trigger PTSD"what will be left of geek culture and gaming? Getting stoned on magic mushrooms and running through the sewers? There's probably somepony out there who has PTSD due to that too.

    Funny that PTSD was first an issue with combat vets, and the femgeeks don't seem to make as much noise about first person shooters or the unofficial defcon shoot. "OMG, don't look at hacker pics! The gun images might trigger PTSD in our othered combatgeeks!"

    I know PTSD is _real_. The way we deal with it in the fire/EMS world is to try and prevent bad stuff from happening, and help our suffering friends grow through the trauma, instead of trying to shield them from reality.

    Would fewer tasteless jokes and more sensitivity be good in geek culture? Sure, I think. But if you're just shielding and forcing it, you're not teaching people to be more sensitive. On the other hand, _you_ are in control of your feelings, not me.

    Look at the progenitor issue here. A bad, tasteless rape joke about games that celebrate killing. Killing is fine. Killing people never hurt anypony, but rape is bad, m'kay? Wow, talk about dizzying intellect. That logic escapes me.

    1. If you read my whole post, you might have noticed that I argued that concerned people should continue going to PAX because ultimately, PAX is one of the best, safest cons for women.

      You might also have noticed that I found the original Dickwolves strip funny and insightful based on how lame MMORPGs are when they have you save 10 slaves but not the rest.

      You might have noticed that I'm not arguing for an end to free speech in the geek community. You might also realize that an argument for more civilized speech is not a call for censorship. I would never support a law or rule that would end all discussion of rape (joking or otherwise). In fact, I am defending Gabe & Tycho in stating that women and feminist men should continue to attend PAX so they can continue to use their free speech to influence the culture there.

      You might have noticed a lot of other perfectly reasonable points as well, for instance, how I, personally, have accepted Gabe and Tycho's apology. And I'm not sure, but I think I pointed out that we can't always avoid hitting someone's trigger, and that the larger damage from rape jokes comes from making rapers feel more safe than potential victims. You might have noticed that anyone with a trigger needs to deal with it in their own way, and if attending PAX is too triggering for an individual, then it's up to them whether they attend in spite of that.

      You somehow failed to read that one of the books I've published has a rape scene and contains no trigger warning.

      If I did not make that point clearly enough, I'll make it again: Rape jokes are damaging because they let rapers think rape is ok. And yes, there are guys who think rape is ok. If you are not one of them, all you need to know is that those guys exist and they are listening to the rape jokes and laughing for a different reason than you are. And there are lots of them. And we women would really like you good guys to know so you can believe us when we tell you other more serious things.. Like for instance, when a woman reports that she has been assaulted. This happened at a PAX-related party this very weekend, and she was not taken seriously:

      The murder comparison is interesting, and you're not the first to make it. Here's the problem: We live in a society where everyone knows murder is wrong. Almost always even the murderer knows it's wrong. When someone reports a murder, very rarely are they ignored. Rarely are they blamed for their own murder or attempted murder. There are exceptions, but the fact is that society puts a lot of energy into preventing murder and car accidents and to some extent war.

      Sure, we joke about murder. Then when a real murder happens, the jokes stop and everyone gets really serious about it for a while.

      What makes rape special is that even those in the highest authority: many police officers, prosecuting attorneys, doctors, clergy, and so on, think rape is a joke. And when a rape actually happens, it goes on being a joke. It is dismissed, or the victim is blamed, or revictimized, or re-harassed.

      The day rape stops being treated like a joke by *society* is the day (in my opinion) we can start joking about it without criticism. Until then, rape jokes will be criticized, and in this case, PAX will be boycotted for it (even if I don't think it should be boycotted). Believe me, I have an irreverent sense of humor, and I'd love a world in which rape jokes were totally ok. That's a world in which REAL rapes are taken seriously. Until then, rape jokers can expect some criticism.

      Next time, please try reading my post in its entirety and don't make so many assumptions before replying. I can spot a strawman argument from across the world, and you won't get it past me. (Nor did the ad hominem attack work. Nice try.) Unfortunately for you, I do happen to have something of an intellect... It's easy for logic to escape you if you don't actually read the words I wrote.


  19. In that, I'd stress (and stress A LOT) the difference between reality and entertainment/comedy. I enjoy some pretty gross jokes on occasion and the like, but also understand hurting other people is not okay. And that last bit is what needs to be driven into people's heads. Person who thinks actually hurting other people is okay = baaaadd. Person making crude jokes = ok, if perhaps lacking in tact.

    The key thing is that the attitude about real-world actions is clear and vehement. Sadly I see people attacking for example good comedy too often on the grounds that it somehow makes people think hurting others is OK : /

    1. I agree, and this is tricky ground to walk. Personally, I thought the original joke was funny. Some didn't, and I totally understand their concerns.

      One tricky thing about rape jokes, and the best argument against them I've heard, is that in every audience, there are men thinking to themselves, "Yeah, rape is pretty awesome, and I'm glad this person telling the joke agrees with me." This is (or so I'm led to understand) what rapists think. They think a non-rapist telling a rape joke is condoning their behavior. It's messed up, and it doesn't make the rape-joke-teller complicit in any crime, but it DOES help enable the rapist.

      If the rest of society (law enforcement, health care, politicians, parents, churches, and so on) didn't ALSO enable rapists to such a huge degree, I might shrug and tell people who are bothered to stop whining. But since every other area of society literally lets a majority of rapists walk; blames the victims; makes excuses for perpetrators... I think there's less room for joking than I'd like. When this crime is taken seriously, like murder is, then we can joke all we want.

    2. In that case, the work should be done in health care and law enforcement instead of attacking comedians doing their job? I mean, we have sick nutcases out there who think murdering people is okay. Very few, but still. And we still joke about gruesome murder (especially one of a lurid bent) all day long.

      As for working elsewhere I mean for example treatment. It's not like getting treatment and support for some issue requires someone else's criminal conviction. Sounds like a good first step to me. Probably the best, even, if you believe in reparatory instead of punitive justice.

    3. The criminal conviction helps send a message to rapists that it's not okay. Right now, they get far more messages that it is okay than that it's not. They get away with far more rapes than they are caught on.

      Healthcare for victims is great, too. (Many victims are not treated well by the healthcare system.)

      Meanwhile rapists need to get off the street.

      BTW, I don't think "once a sexual offender, always a sexual offender", and I am against these laws that turn them into criminals for life. That is an over reaction. I am for trying to discover if treatment for rapists is possible (right now, most people don't think it's possible, and I don't think that's based on science).

      The best first step is many steps. This is a serious issue, so we shouldn't be looking for a single "first step". If I had to pick a single first step, it wouldn't be rape jokes that's for sure. But this can be worked from many angles, and this is one of them.

      If I report a crime, be it a murder or a rape, I should be able to count on the police taking me seriously. Unfortunately, right now if it's a rape, I can't count on it being taken seriously. The stories are out there. This year at the Minecraft party at PAX, a man grabbed a non-consenting woman's hand and put it on his penis. She reported it to the party bouncers and they laughed it off, and the perp got away. It happens every single day. Many women are themselves punished for reporting by the very people they report to. So many women simply do not report. The statistics and individual stories are out there.

      Again if the whole thing wasn't treated like a joke by most of the otherwise decent people in society, then we could joke about it all we want. Murder isn't treated like a joke, so we joke about it. But guess what? As soon as you make a *racist* murder joke, now a bunch of people are going to be offended. Why? Because *real racist murder* is not treated seriously too much of the time.

      We're only allowed to joke about serious things when those serious things are taken seriously. If you joke about a sensitive topic that is too often laughed off when it really happens? Expect some people to be offended. That's the price of free speech -- sometimes you'll offend people. And it's possible, -just possible-, that those people have good reasons to be offended.

  20. Excellent explanation, thank you. You just managed to make me understand the angry people a bit better ^^

    1. Glad I could help. :) I've learned that emotional people usually have good reasons for being emotional. They may still be objectively wrong (or partly wrong or even 100% right), but their feelings aren't ever wrong. Dismissing them only amplifies the feelings. You won't get anywhere with persuasion without first understanding and acknowledging the other side's point of view.