Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Assholes threaten rape on the Internet

(Trigger warning for abhorrent threats of rape and sexual violence; also for terrible language on my part)

Dear Internet men,

I think it's time we had a chat. You know I love all y'all to pieces -- where would I be without the glory of 4chan generated Xzibit memes, epic co-op games of Diablo II, and yes, even off-color Penny Arcade comics. But this recent re-tread of the whole "dickwolves" debacle has forced me to do the thing that I least like doing in the world: reading internet comments that call for "feminist bitches" to be raped for their supposed lack of a sense of humor.

I know you think it's the epitome of fucking hilarious to call for the rape of "dyke cunts" or to debate amongst yourselves (in public) whether or not "fat whores" can truly be raped in light of their eternal unattractiveness. The thing is, though, it's not funny. It's not clever. It certainly isn't new. And here are some reasons why:

Fugitivus: A woman walks into a rape, uh, bar:
For those of you who wonder why rape victims get all super sensitive about rape jokes ‘n shit, well, this is why. Before you’re raped, rape jokes might be uncomfortable, or they might be funny, or they might be any given thing. But after you’re raped, they are a trigger. They make you remember what was done to you. And if the joke was about something that wasn’t done to you, not in quite that way, you can really easily imagine how it would feel, because you know how something exactly like that felt. Rape jokes stop being about a thing that happens out there, somewhere, to people who don’t really exist, and if they do they probably deserved it, and they start being about you. Rape jokes are about you. Jokes about women liking it or deserving it are about how much you liked it and deserved it. And they are also jokes about how, in all likelihood, it’s going to happen to you again.
Melissa McEwan: Rape Culture 101:
Rape culture is rape jokes. Rape culture is rape jokes on t-shirts, rape jokes in college newspapers, rape jokes in soldiers' home videos, rape jokes on the radio, rape jokes on news broadcasts, rape jokes in magazines, rape jokes in viral videos, rape jokes in promotions for children's movies, rape jokes on Page Six (and again!), rape jokes on the funny pages, rape jokes on TV shows, rape jokes on the campaign trail, rape jokes on Halloween, rape jokes in online content by famouspeople, rape jokes in online content by non-famous people, rape jokes in headlines, rape jokes onstage at clubs, rape jokes in politics, rape jokes in one-woman shows, rape jokes in print campaigns, rape jokes in movies, rape jokes in cartoons, rape jokes in nightclubs, rape jokes on MTV, rape jokes on late-night chat shows, rape jokes in tattoos, rape jokes in stand-up comedy, rape jokes on websites, rape jokes at awards shows, rape jokes in online contests, rape jokes in movie trailers, rape jokes on the sides of buses, rape jokes on cultural institutions… 
Rape culture is people objecting to the detritus of the rape culture being called oversensitive, rather than people who perpetuate the rape culture being regarded as not sensitive enough.
From Melissa McEwan again: Off-Limits Humor:
But here’s the main reason I object to the use of “politically incorrect” humor at this blog: There’s awhole fucking world out there where women and gay men and trans wo/men and racial minorities and the disabled and the overweight and people who are intrinsically and inescapably “different” for any reason are made fun of, marginalized, turned into punchlines. There’s a whole fucking world out there which expects us all to be perfect according to some arbitrary definition and seeks to punish us if we’re not. There’s a whole fucking world out there where people who don’t conform to that standard are not only ridiculed and made to feel not good enough, but can also find themselves at real risk of physical harm. Where they’re denied rights, job opportunities, friendships, votes, equality. If you want to use “politically incorrect” humor that targets those people, you have the entire rest of the bloody world to do it, but you can’t do it here.
And again: Survivors are So Sensitive:
Quite honestly, my objection to rape jokes is not even because I particularly find the jokes personally triggering anymore; I generally just find them pathetic and inexplicable. And while I'm bothered by the fact that the jokes normalize and effectively minimize the severity of rape and thus perpetuate the rape culture, I'm more bothered by the thought of a woman who's recently been raped, who's just experienced what may be the worst thing that will ever happen to her, and goes to the site of her favorite webcomic, or turns on the telly, or goes to the cinema, or a comedy club, to have a much-needed laugh—only to see that horrible, life-changing thing used as the butt of a joke.
Here's the thing. I have a stupid, dark sense of humor. I actually enjoyed the original Penny Arcade comic. But if someone told me that I said something shitty that made them relive a terrible episode in their life? I'd shut the fuck up and apologize, and probably re-examine why I thought that thing was funny in the first place.

What I absolutely would not do is troll their blogs (and enlist my friends to do the same) to threaten them with one of the most heinous acts that can be committed by one person upon another. The idea of doing that is absolutely disgusting to contemplate, and the idea of receiving such comments is an absolutely terrifying prospect. And yet, it's not a "few bad apples" who do this online. It happens. All. The. Fucking. Time.

In case you're wondering what comments look like on feminist blogs, by the way, Melissa also has a few examples:
Comment on Rape is Hilarious: The only tragedy is that a bullet didn’t rip through your brainstem after you were used for your one and only purpose in this world. You should consider yourself lucky that some man finds a hideous troll like yourself rape-able.
Three comments down on the same post: These fat whores would be lucky to even get raped by someone. I hope you whiny cunts find your way on top of a pinball machine in the near future.
Feministe holds a Next Top Troll competition that's been going on for several "seasons" now. Exemplars of the commenters up for the award:
What man would want to date an egotistical, finger-wagging bitch like you, other than to fuck you and then leave right afterward because you’re an insufferable nag. 
You “ladies” have obviously had too many “dickbags” in your lives. You all should just relax, shut up, get on your knees, and do the only thing you are good for.
Or just check out to get your fix of how retrofucks treat women on the Internet.

See, the thing is, I don't think most Internet men make comments like this. But a hell of a lot of them do. And they very rarely get told that it's not acceptable, and very often get told that it's hilarious. And part of the purpose of the link-frenzy above is to say you know what? This happens. It happens a fucking lot.

So this is my plea to dudes on the Internet. Go forth. Engage. Get angry. Be assholes, if you absolutely must. But stop fucking threatening women with rape. It's abhorrent. It's disgusting. It's borderline (if not over the line) criminal. But most of all, it's terrifying. And if what you want is for women (and feminist girl geeks in particular) to stop thinking that geek circles are full of anti-feminist, retrofuck, juvenile, misogynist dickbags, the first step is to stop being one.

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