Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rape Games: Erotic Fun or Normalization of Rape?

A while back Gawker had an article about rape within the Second Life virtual world. The response that I saw from some people was that it wasn't parallel to real rape because the person virtually raped makes an explicit choice to be a rape victim.

Then I saw that the John Edwards' Second Life headquarters was vandalized. Nothing consensual there. This raises serious doubts about whether all virtual sexual interactions in Second Life are consensual.

This blog post about rape games raises some important issues about another sort of virtual rape:

Playing online rape games is acting on the inner urges to do the obviously wrong things either in the dark, or through a channel that appears to make the wrong things right (?!). People who play these are trying out things that they know they cannot do in real life, through a virtual conduit, without the real life laws (for now). [...]

So face it, putting aside the possibility of practising the virtual acts in real life, you are going to have many psychological and mental images and notions that you may not want and cannot erase, including the way you handle friendship with the opposite gender.

Part of the problem I see is in how people determine where appropriate sexual boundaries are. People who don't play these types of games can have trouble with sexual boundaries, but the games may be set up to reward exploitive interactions that trample all over other people's boundaries.

Many a serial rapist tells himself that he is good at sex when all he's good at is committing and getting away with a specific crime. Learning how to interact with others respectfully is much more challenging. And it is much more rewarding.

One erotic game is Hitomi, My Stepsister.

From a review of this erotic anime game:
[...] it took about, oh, seven sentences for Hitomi, My Stepsister to transform from a game with promise into an absurd and unbelievable farce.

There's no "hey, do you wanna…" There's no "let's play doctor." (Either of which, incidentally, would be so much hotter than what actually happens.) The protagonist's rationale for rape literally goes like this: Hitomi's not wearing a bra; this must be her way of seducing men; if she's seducing men, then she'll spread for anyone; if the slut's seducing me, it means she thinks she's better than me; I'll chuck it up in her and show her who's boss.
What I found fascinating about the details of the game is how the game reflects the thinking of many real-life sexual abusers and rapists and how it shows a non-sexual reason for rape.
Hitomi is abused by her mother, was almost raped by her biological father, and is now fundamentally incapable of expressing herself. While she may be the erotic gaming genre's archetypal "blank slate," plot-wise there's a huge missed opportunity here. Hitomi is a character that may legitimately "want it" without knowing how to say so.
This too reflects reality. I'm glad this reviewer doesn't find this sexy. Many real-life targets are vulnerable because they are barely-walking wounded. However, the idea that she may want it is problematic because many real people project that onto their targets.

In the real world many sexual exploiters would turn her inability to express herself into a blank check. If she can't express herself, she isn't going to report it if she's raped, is she?

I'm glad that the reviewer, Dan Barry, didn't find this game a turn on.

The erotic game I'd love to see is one where those who give into the temptation to rape get caught or have a bad outcome. And one in which those who get the full and uncoerced cooperation of characters capable of consenting are the only one's who have any sort of good outcome.

To really win when it comes to any sex game, it should take the same interpersonal skills it takes to be truly good at consensual sexual interaction in real life.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:11 AM   4 comments links to this post


At March 24, 2007 8:16 AM, Anonymous Scott said...

The thing that is really scary about these games is that they are almost always a masturbation aid. So the people playing them are re-enacting rape scenes while masturbating.

I think that the net effect of this is going to be that the players are gradually lowering their own inhibitions to rape, while at the same time they are building a strong link in their minds between rape and sexual gratification.

And yes, I know that this sounds like the tired old "looking at porn makes you a rapist" argument, but the difference is that mainstream porn is not interactive. In these games, the players are intentionally and actively re-enacting rape.

I saw one of these games. They're scary.

At March 24, 2007 11:54 AM, Blogger Aerik said...

Hitomi, my Stepsister is not the only rape game out there, and by far not the worst.

Look here.

Something Awful Hentai Game Reviews

Here, an otherwise obnoxious site has a reviewer that shows true disgust for the hentai that the forum members love so much. Take a look at the one called "Jewel Knight Crusaders," which graphically depicts the bloody rape of a 10 year old girl.

At March 24, 2007 5:35 PM, Blogger Megan Bayliss said...

Great post Marcella. I share your wish for erotic games ending with the rapist being caught and punished.

At May 31, 2008 9:31 AM, Anonymous Martin said...

Good Job!


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