Not that I have much readership, but just in case: Trigger Warning, this post involves discussion of rape, murder, violence, and victim blaming.
Earlier today I came upon this and it (or rather the comments on the article) prompted me to post about something I’ve been mulling over for a while, namely the difference between so called ‘rape simulators’ and ‘murder simulators’.
In the last year or so there has been much ado made about hentai video games in general and the game RapeLay in specific. Now, if you don’t know about these games or the genre, let me enlighten you real quick: hentai games are adult anime games that include erotic material. From what I understand, as I do not peruse them myself, they do not necessarily contain sexual coercion but most of the examples I have seen have at least some of this element in them. RapeLay is the most egregious of these as it is a game in which you, the player and main character, stalk and rape a mother and her two daughters and then attempt to blackmail them into sexual slavery. It is quite honestly a very disturbing game, but many have defended its existence by pointing to many other non-sexually violent games like Manhunt and Manhunt2 in which you, the player, go around killing multiple people in very gruesome, graphic, and violent ways. I think those comparisons are apt and ideally that these two games (RapeLay and Manhunt) should be treated the same, but that in our current culture the more insidious and potentially harmful game is in fact RapeLay and that it, and the publishers who make games like it, should perhaps have a greater amount of regulation and restriction put on them for several reasons.
Now first I’d like to say a couple of things before I go further into this discussion to clear up where I’m coming from on this:
a) I am not in any way suggesting that rape is worse than murder, I think they are both heinous crimes, but to say one is worse than the other morally speaking is like comparing apples to oranges.
b) I am about as sex-postive as they get so this is not me slamming erotic games as a whole or even kink pornographic materials. I think kink sexuality is an awesome and healthy way to express one’s sexuality and as long as all involved are ethusiastically consenting participants, then who the hell cares what you’re doing. I only start to have a problem when there is a lack of consent or when that consent has been coerced.
c) I am also a huge gaming fan, I love them all from shooters to platformers, and I don’t subscribe to the idea that video games ‘make you violent’ or ‘teach you how to kill people’.
Alright, got all that? Good, on with the blog.
The Manhunt titles have been at the center of controversy over violence in gaming and have been criticized by politicians and pearl-clutchers as a ‘murder simulator’ for their graphic depictions of various killings. I can see where they get this because of the immersion aspect of video games and the fact that your actions (i.e. pushing the buttons) directly lead to killing someone in-game. However, I fail to see how violent video games can make a person violent anymore than a novel or movie that details how to kill someone. Now, if you are a violent person already, violent media may enhance your violent tendencies, but they certainly do not create them out of thin air. The same would go for RapeLay and other ‘rape simulators’. They will not make you a rapist, but if you already have tendencies toward sexual assault and harassment, then these games and media will probably enhance those tendencies and therein lies the crux of the problem. Most people in our culture do not have violent tendencies that predispose them to murder, but they do have the tendencies that lead to rape and sexual assault because we live in a society that implicitly condones rape, or what feminists like to call the rape culture.
Now, I know that last sentence is a little hard to swallow, so let me back it up with some evidence and theory. First, 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime and every 2 minutes a woman is sexually assaulted. Think about those numbers for a second, let them sink in and realize that if these numbers were talking about a flu or virus, this would be an epidemic. If these numbers were talking about murders we’d call it a genocide, but we don’t speak about rape and sexual assault in those tones. Most of the time, in our culture, rape is dismissed as sex gone bad, sex regretted the next day, drunken one-night stands, and the hysterical machinations of so many whores and sluts trying to tarnish the reputations of good, upstanding men. In our culture we blame women for their rapes, we say that they were asking for it with that skirt/shirt/look/flirt, we say that she should have known better to get drunk around a guy or to go to that frat party. All of this lets rapists know that they can get away with rape, that we, as a society don’t truly see what they do as a crime. In our rape culture, women are assumed to always be sexually available, that their bodies are public domain, and that until they say “No” to what is going on they have given their consent. This is why groping and upskirting happen, because men are taught by our culture than women’s bodies are there for their pleasure no matter what she happens to think. Only 40% of rapes are reported to the police, and even in those 40% of rape cases, only 16% end up with the rapist ever seeing jail time. The criminal and justice system let rapists off the hook at an alarming rate, mostly because of the victim blaming and partly because rape is not treated as a serious crime in this country.
All of that, is why I feel games like RapeLay and the one I linked to at the beginning of this post are worse than Manhunt. In our culture, killing people left and right is not condoned, in fact it is harshly dealt with by life sentences and the death penalty, but rape and sexual assault, even as prevalent as they are, is not given the same treatment. It is dismissed or given a light punishment. If we have so much in our culture already encouraging men to view women as sexual objects to be claimed and conquered, if rape and sexual assault is a real experience for 1 in 6 women, and rapists are allowed to go consequence free as is depicted in the games, then yes I find ‘rape simulators’ to be a threat. Like I said earlier, they will not make you a rapist, but they could very well enhance a potential rapists urge to assault, his conviction that women’s bodies are there for his taking, and the assurance that he will not be persecuted for his actions.