Geek Girls Rule! #133 – Penny Arcade and the Dickwolves

I appreciate the feedback, but I don’t get here very often, so your comments don’t get approved that quickly.  And there’s a new Dickwolves post there.


Yeah, I wasn’t going to get into this, but a lot of the debate around it is really starting to get on my nerves.

So, last week the Penny Arcade guys posted this comic.  Quick synopsis, a slave comes up to an MMORPG “Hero” asking to be saved, telling the “Hero” about the abuses he suffers which include “being raped to sleep by dickwolves” every night.  The “Hero” says that he’s already saved the five slaves required by the quest, and tells the sixth slave to “not make this awkward.”

Shortly thereafter a guest poster at Shakesville posts this response.  With which I do not agree in the least, and I will explain after I finish linking you to innumerable posts.  I am a history major, this is what we do.  We cite things.

The guys at Penny Arcade then post this response.  Which is ok, until the last panel when they go for the Straw Man argument about how if their comic made you rape, stop it.  Which as much as I disliked and disagree with the Shakesville response(s), they did not actually accuse the strip of doing.  And really just makes the Penny Arcade guys look like jerks.

Ok.  Those are the players.  Other folks have also commented atPandagon and Geek Feminism (and this one), but the first three links up there are what’s important.

Thing the first:  Gabe and Tycho were not making a “rape” joke, but were instead making a joke about the “morality” of computer games, MMORPG or otherwise, wherein you are, as the hero, only expected to be moral to the point that the quest requires.  The use of rape in the line “raped to sleep by dickwolves” is pretty obviously supposed to the most horrible thing ever, something anyone with a soul would want to save a slave from, yet, here is the “Hero” saying, “Yeah, tough.  I already saved the five slaves I needed to.”

And as someone who has been raped, I can concur, that yes, rape is pretty much one of the most horrible things ever.

Thing the second:  Why don’t I agree with Milli A and Shakesville that Gabe and Tycho suck?  Trust me, I’ve seen Gabe and Tycho screw up, in the final panel of their response to this, for example.  But I don’t feel that this is a rape joke, as in rape is the punchline.  Rape isn’t the punchline, rape is a horrible thing people should be saved from.  The fact that the “Hero” won’t save the slave because he’s made his quota is the punchline. It’s like if a Red Cross volunteer quit pulling survivors from the wreckage because they’d saved all the people they were supposed to.  Or if an ER doc quit in the middle of a life-saving procedure because he’d stitched all the stitches he was supposed to.

Granted, your mileage may vary, and this is something that I have blogged about on my more serious blogs:  Sexual Assault survivors are not a monolith.  Some of us enjoy gallows humor, and definitely feel it serves it’s purpose in the grand scheme of healing.  Some of us don’t.  However, as a rape survivor I am fucking sick to death of people, some of whom are also survivors, but many who are not, decreeing that as a survivor I need to be treated as if I’m made of spun glass and merely seeing the word “rape” will shatter me into a bazillion pieces, or, conversely that because I’m NOT made of spun glass surrounding the topic, that I’m doing it wrong.

Look, heroes are supposed to save people.  And the fact that in many games your “Hero’s” morality is solely dependent on a fixed number of “good deeds” runs counter to what most of us would classify as heroic in the real world.  That is the punchline of the joke.

18 thoughts on “Geek Girls Rule! #133 – Penny Arcade and the Dickwolves

  1. It’s unfortunately the price of attempting to be edgy. It’s about impossible to stay uncontroversial when you’ve got an audience as large as PA, someone is almost always going to be offended. Particularly when you go into such topic or racism or the like.

    That said I thought it was somewhat of an odd comic, and the followup was extremely bizzare if nothing else. They’d have been better off just moving along and perhaps addressing it in a blog post or somesuch manner.

  2. I think the ‘apology strip’ is fine – the point it is making is that the furore is moronic and they have nothing to ‘apologise’ about, hence the absurd sarcastic message.

  3. It would have been fine if they’d ended it before that last panel. Because while the furor was pointless, they’re attacking a straw man in the last panel and it just makes them look like jerks.

  4. Very well thought-out argument, I read Penny Arcade every now and then and then saw all this hoopla about that strip and decided to check it out.

    One thing that really annoyed me about Shakesville was after reading the initial post I tried to read the comments, only to find that the moderators seem to edit and replace any comments they don’t like with statements such as, “Hi, I’m a douche.” And then, the arguments that agree with the original poster will attack the edited responder, and you have no idea what they had posted. Psshh.

  5. That would be why I rarely delete comments in my blogs, unless someone has said something truly and horrendously egregious.

    Plus, I’ve had my run-ins at Shakesville at well, including calling someone out for their own bullshit and because they were a favorite, they got a pass. I think the goal of a safe space is laudable, but I think that when you do it at the expense of actual communication, you fail.

  6. Kudos for one of the most reasonable arguments I’ve seen on the matter. I’m a guy who was the victim of sexual assault and don’t get what much of the “rape culture” is supposed to be about.

    In many ways, it seems that any talk about rape from males is seen as advancing this “culture” which I think is incredibly destructive. Being able to comment (and even joke) about rape opens up communication that is so vital to recovery, especially for boys and men who are still stigmatized for being unable to stop their attack. (I was forced to bury my experience for years because no one wanted to talk about it, including therapists and school counselors.)

    Thanks again for such a level-headed point of view on such a heated topic.

  7. Well done – you seem to be about the only person on the whole internets who seems to understand. And many kudos on being a survivor rather than a victim, fwiw.

  8. Jay, I know why Shakesville is overreacting. I was “present” for the meltdown that resulted in their current policies, etc… It made me sad, because I’d always liked Shakesville, and while I understand Melissa’s goal, I think the way it was handled (which alienated a LOT of her readers and at least one co-blogger) turned it into a big fucking cartoon. Honestly, I don’t think the Onion could have satirized the whole situation any better.

    I still miss the old Shakesville and occasionally wander back in for a glance, because since most of them do blog full-time, it’s a pretty good news aggregate.

    I have my own issues with the moderation crew, like their hypocrisy towards anyone who isn’t one of their inner circle, and the reactionary bullshit.

  9. Agreed with thing the first and second. Do not agree that panel 3 of second comic was a Strawman attack. It did not cite the Shakesville post and accuse them of saying that PA comics promote rape. It was funny. If you read it without having just read the Shakesville post you won’t get the idea that it is a personal attack.

    If it’s not confirmed as a personal attack then I’m willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. Shakesville and others are wrong in getting way too up in arms about this. The comic was not about rape.

    The word “rape” is however overused in many gaming aspects. See my thing about it. That doesn’t make PA evil. Or angels. They’re just funny ha-ha comic people. As far as the “trigger warning” controversy that really only applies to sites that cater to people that might conceivably need such warnings. I.e., Shakesville. The rest of the internet need not be concerned, lest we be forced to put trigger warnings on everything that’s ever put out anywhere in any situation, for fear of triggering someone’s Iraq War PTSD, or bad childhood memory, or epileptic fit from flashing lights (that last being a legit issue, but it’s on them to avoid video sites or places that routinely feature heavy-flashing video).

  10. You hit the nail on the head, regarding the intent of the original comic (as I read it, at least).

    If I may suggest…

    The second comic (the “response”) strikes me as a bit more clever than folks are giving it credit for. Yes, it plays the strawman game. That’s kind of the point. Shakesville played the same game re: the first comic, slamming it for mocking rape and/or propagating some sort of rape culture, where the comic is actually using it to compactly depict a horrible situation, and question the “moral” implications of ignoring the affected NPC’s plight.

    The fact that the response comic draws this sort of fire is more than a bit ironic.

  11. I sincerely thank you for this. I’ve never been raped, but as an infantry Marine in Iraq twice, I know PTSD like the back of my hand, and I detested it being thrown around concerning this particular issue, seemingly with the sole purpose to elicit an emotional response.

    But your stance isn’t the reason I am thankful. It was depressing following this basically meme at this point, and everybody who wasn’t a die hard feminist was on the far end of the other side, spouting bigoted idiotic unhelpful rhetoric. It made us seem like exactly what they wanted us to seem like. And personally, I label myself a feminist. I believe in equality, of people’s rights to their own bodies and to receive the exact same opportunities regardless of gender, or race, or creed, whatever.

    Personally, I disagree with Shakesville on this because she, instead of realizing the intended point of the post, went off on a knee-jerk reaction of the word rape. If I were in the same situation as Penny Arcade, I wouldn’t feel obligated to apologize for that anymore then I would apologize for drawing Mohammed, even though THAT was directly intended to offend a specific people.

    With that said, if I were in the same situation, I definitely would have handled the aftermath differently. People tend to side with you when you take the high ground, or at least the logically defensible road.

  12. “I think the goal of a safe space is laudable, but I think that when you do it at the expense of actual communication, you fail.”

    I’m ridiculously late, but THANK YOU. THANK YOU SO MUCH. This is why I dumped Scans_Daily a while ago, only dropping by when someone links me to something particularly ridiculous.

    A recent post (which brought up the Dickwolves thing) minimized any attempt to bring up the idea that maybe men have feelings by labeling them the “”But the MENZ!” contingent.”

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